Marine Science Boats Slip Into Something More Comfortable

Published: Mar 22, 2007
A generous gift by Steven Knight, the founder of Yacht Clubs of the Americas, will guarantee The University of Tampa a stake in the future of Tampa Bay.

Knight, who is building a network of private marinas from Key West to Jacksonville, including Tampa Harbour, has donated a gift in kind to the University worth $537,500. The gift includes two boat racks and one wet slip to accommodate the University’s marine science research boats. Marine science is one of the most popular majors at UT, and the gift allows continued access to the water.

“I am pleased to be in a position to make this contribution to the University,” Knight said. “I know it’s been said many times before, but water is truly our most precious natural resource, especially here in Florida, and I believe we need to keep it that way.”

UT’s waterfront Marine Science Center is located at Bayside Marina, the future site of Tampa Harbour, 20 minutes from campus. The facility serves students and faculty in the marine science, environmental science and biology programs. It features a wet lab, a dry lab, a classroom and a SCUBA storage area.

"The marine science program is one of our largest and best academic programs, and the Marine Research Lab with boats and water access is important to student learning, as well as our marine research efforts,” said University President Ronald L. Vaughn.

Students frequently conduct research from the 45-foot research vessel, the Bios, which is equipped for SCUBA diving, trawling, dredging and on-site study of marine ecosystems. The Bios will be kept in the wet slip, while the University’s two Grady White boats will be housed in the indoor racks.

Now under construction, Tampa Harbour Yacht Club on West Tyson Avenue is set to open this December and will offer luxury amenities for boaters, such as valet parking and wholesale costs on fuel and provisions. Owners will be able to call an hour before their arrival, and their boat will be fueled and ready to go. When they are finished, the crew will clean the boat, flush the engine and return it to an indoor dry store rack.

“If you are a boat owner, you own that boat for the pure joy of being out on the water, and by owning a slip at Tampa Harbour Yacht Club and other locations, all the work is done so our members can enjoy themselves,” Knight said.

A lifetime boater who grew up in South Florida, Knight wants to preserve recreational boating in the state through this concept. He is CEO of Yacht Clubs of the Americas, and his vision is to create the largest private yacht club network in the Americas. He believes customer service is lacking in the marine industry, and that the five-star concierge service available at his upscale marinas will fill the void.

Yacht Clubs of the Americas also will offer owners reciprocal privileges at other yacht clubs across the state, including the Grand Bahama Yacht Club on Grand Bahama Island.

Yacht clubs are under construction on Ft. George Island near Jacksonville, and in Stuart, Key West and Naples. Knight opened the first of his marinas at Sanibel Harbour in April 2006, and hopes to expand to Acapulco, Mexico; Myrtle Beach, SC; and Destin, FL.

The luxury marina concept has received much press attention across the state. In addition to the amenities, Knight plans to sell a majority of slips, rather than lease them, which is becoming more commonplace as the competition for slip access becomes greater. As slip space makes way for condominiums, Knight offers a way to preserve valuable waterfront property for boating access.

Slips are appreciating in value by 35 percent over the past eight years, according to Florida State Certified Appraisers. Pre-sales of the slips already have begun in Tampa. The company recently announced that Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott has taken ownership of a YCOA slip for his boat.