OUR POSITION: As disappointing as it is on several fronts, no one could have predicted a virus would shut down Sunseeker construction.
It’s already started.
People are pointing fingers at the Charlotte County Commission for green lighting permits and construction of Sunseeker resort.
It’s a ridiculous stretch of imagination to believe commissioners should shoulder any blame for the possibility that an eyesore on the Charlotte Harbor waterfront may poison our view for the next year or two.
Let’s be frank here. No person, or commission, or even Allegiant Airlines, is at fault for a sudden halt in construction of the 22-acre resort.
The blame lies solely on the coronavirus.
We promise you, this is not the only construction project in the United States sitting idle because of a financial hit. COVID-19 strangled Sunseeker. And it will take a rebirth of our economy to resurrect it.
The circumstances surrounding the choice to halt construction are easy to comprehend. As disappointing as the decision is, the project was always tip-toeing along on a financial precipice.
John Redmond, president of Allegiant, is probably one of the few people who could have pulled off Sunseeker in the first place. Redmond, president of Sunseeker who was hired to expand the thrifty airline’s profile, stealthily bought up the waterfront land he needed and hatched the ambitious idea with little more than a nod of approval.
Sunseeker is Redmond’s baby and we doubt anyone is more disappointed than he. He cajoled the board of directors to support the resort while some members questioned the investment and others likely preferred to remain just an airline.
Money for Sunseeker came mostly from the airline’s operating revenues and that always made its success reliant on smooth flying. When the coronavirus all but decimated air travel in the U.S., the money for a resort dried up fast.
What we must keep in mind, however, is the project is not dead. Officially it is on an 18-month hiatus. And, Allegiant has opened the door for another “partner” with the financial wherewithal to restart construction and share the success when, and if, it happens.
Right now, however, Allegiant will concentrate on keeping the airline solvent and successful, as it should. Only when people believe it is safe to travel again will the cash begin to flow and Punta Gorda — and other Allegiant hubs in the country — will once again set records for passengers. At least that is the hope, if not the expectation.
We’re confident that will happen. And, if the slow reopening of the country does not suffer a setback because of a spike in COVID-19 infections, it will happen sooner than later.
Then, sometime down the road, the cranes can return to the waterfront in Charlotte Harbor.
Meanwhile, we will have to tolerate what can honestly be termed an eyesore. No one wants to see bare concrete walls blocking the water view on Charlotte Harbor.
But don’t blame county commissioners. And please don’t dare compare it to Murdock Village, as at least one person has.
Murdock Village was a thousand-acre project, financed by taxpayers, that has dragged on for years. Sunseeker is a private development that promised to boost the county’s tax revenues. And, even though it may be miniscule, about $200,000 a year in taxes on the undeveloped land are being collected.
There is just no comparison to Murdock Village.