TEXAS VIEW: Dream big on Gulf

By The Brownsville Herald

It’s been said that it costs nothing to dream. Making dreams come true, however, requires a certain amount of investment — of time, effort and resources — and South Padre Island officials know it. The SPI City Council recently voted to spend up to $100,000 to try to attract cruise ships to the Island.

The obvious question, of course, is whether the Island has enough attractions to lure the ship lines in.

The $100,000, which will go to the Passenger and Shipping Institute Inc. to promote the Island to cruise ship lines, is only the beginning of the investment in attracting the cruise business. If interest exists, the city would have to erect a dock, welcome center and other infrastructure to receive and handle passengers. The center and a floating dock would take about three years and cost as much as $30 million, officials told staff writer Raul Garcia recently.

Initially, city officials wish to make the Island a port of call — a place where ships that originate elsewhere stop to allow passengers to disembark and shop, see the sights and enjoy local entertainment. City officials hope at least one ship will dock here each week. Cruise ships carry from a few hundred up to around 5,000 passengers, and city officials believe each visit could bring in more than $2 million to the city’s economy.

Many attractions do exist, beginning with a beach that consistently ranks near the top of global rankings in the tourism industry. SPI has many fine dining establishments and shops where visitors can pick up mementos of their visit.

We must admit that some of the Island’s main attractions, such as fishing and dolphin watching, also exist at other ports of call. One unique selling point, however, could be Schlitterbahn Beach Resort, with its flumes and other features.

SPI officials should consider other investments that could make the Island more attractive to cruise lines, and tourists in general.

That could include stepped-up lobbying to convince state legislators to legalize casino gambling, as the Island likely would be a primary venue for such facilities. Cameron County already has held discussions with developers who have expressed interest in building casinos here if and when lawmakers give the green light.

The Island would benefit from an amphitheater near the beach that could draw major entertainment acts. A multi-purpose facility could be used for events ranging from concerts to sporting events — perhaps even a national political convention.

Of course, such features wouldn’t be exclusive to cruise ship passengers. Rio Grande Valley residents also would benefit from having new places to spend their evenings and weekends.

A little brainstorming surely would give rise to other possibilities. And fortunately, such investment could help the Island, and the Valley in general.

And it all begins with a dream.