The developers of the Margaritaville Resort in Fort Myers Beach held a topping-off ceremony Friday morning as they put the last beam on top of the $200 million project.
This milestone for Margaritaville also marks a significant move toward recovery in Fort Myers Beach in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian’s pummeling. It’s been a 3 1/2-month journey for locals, from thousands of pounds of debris being picked up to the first FEMA trailer being delivered, numerous visits from the state, city, and county officials working together to rebuild this town, and the beach finally reopening. Ian wiped out many memories for people on Fort Myers Beach, but throughout the recovery, people have told WINK News, “We will rebuild.”
There were people excited about Margaritaville since long before the last hurricane season, but now there’s added weight to updates on the resort’s progress.
“I think everybody’s just ready,” said Fort Myers Beach resident Brenda Schmidt. “I mean, it’s been really hard on everybody, and they’re glad to see all the progress that’s being made.”
“We haven’t been back at all, so I am excited to see what’s open and walk around and see what’s left, really,” said Cape Coral resident Christina Rudow.
Fort Myers Beach and Lee County also used the Margaritaville topping-off ceremony as an opportunity to recognize and celebrate businesses that have reopened since Ian or plan to reopen soon.
As for when Margaritaville will open, “I know a lot of the media outlets have been asking us when our opening date is. So I am here to tell you profoundly… That… We don’t know,” said Robert Kisabeth, COO of TPI Hospitality. “[Friday] is the topping off of the building. And what that means is the topping off of the structure.”
It is a visual validation of the progress that has been made.
“It just demonstrates human ingenuity, resolve creativity,” said David Cezario, VP & opening general manager for Margaritaville.
“In order to recover, we need to stimulate our economy by getting our visitors back so that they can spend their dollars in our local businesses,” said Tamara Pigott, director of the Visitor & Convention Bureau for Fort Myers Beach.
This business comes in the form of a 254-room resort with five restaurants, and “What makes us special here are our people, and the passion they have is contagious,” said Pigott.
That was no more evident than when Jacki Liszak, president & CEO of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, welcomed all of the business owners of Fort Myers Beach to stand behind her and show how many people fought hard to keep their livelihoods standing.
“Really, what this means for the construction of the building is that they’re topped off, and they’re dry. So, sheetrock is going in as we speak. Plumbing, electric, you name it,” said Kisabeth.
On Fort Myers Beach, the progress, the effort, and the beauty are still there for everyone to see.