In a recent private meeting between Jim Ringquist, Director of Sales for the Sonoran Resorts Sales Group, this writer, and Gus Brown, Puerto Peñasco’s iconic, almost mysterious behind-the-scenes devoted doer, best known for jump starting the condominium building boom along Sandy Beach, but in recent years for his dedication to the undying dream of making Puerto Peñasco a Home Port for major cruise ships. Gus gave us a two and a half hour historical review of his Sandy Beach Master Plan, taking us from its conception through to the date of this writing.
It was a journey of love and devotion to country, to state, to his land, his beach and the Sea it caresses. It was a journey that included some very positive, to the point of downright exciting recent developments. It was a story of unsung heroes that make up his team—names not that well known locally, but certainly well known fixtures in the international circles that count. And it was a story that was backed up by a slew of facts that clarified a gaggle of rumors, some of which have been floating in and out of Rocky Point like the very tide for years about the Sandy Beach Resorts properties, the Marina and Home Port Master Plan, the convention center, infrastructure, sewage, desalinization, indeed, even Gus himself.
Among what we quickly learned: The Preposterosity of rumors never ceases to amaze. Diversely, the disproval of same never ceases to please.
Gus was insistent on giving credit to his unsung team of tireless dedicated experts made up of his long-time partner, friend and brother-in-law, Reyel Taylor and, more recently Derek Winzer as Director of Home Port and Marina Projects and Development.
His befriending smile and soft but rapid speech could not hide the subtle enthusiasm with which Gus openly shared the latest and most vital facts to substantiate his certainty that Puerto Peñasco tourism and infrastructure development—as well as the hard work and mutual dream of his team—have finally reached the threshold of imminent critical mass for exponential growth as a force among world class destinations just as he has predicted all along.
As Mr. Brown had explained to the Governor of Sonora just a few years ago, and since has gone about to prove, that what Puerto Peñasco has needed to bring it from the ashes of its recent—and ongoing—economic despair is an impact project so grand as to transcend even the previous growth explosion of the mid 2000’s and take us from an old port to a Home Port. He explained to the governor how a Home Port would make our city a launching point for the world to experience the wondrous water wonderland that is the Sea of Cortez; the Sea that has mesmerized the likes of John Steinbeck and Jacques Cousteau. Long before there were roads from the north, this sea lured countless sports fishermen so enamored with the challenge it presents that they were willing to pioneer paths through the treacherous Sonoran Desert for hundreds of miles just to cast their lines into its emerald depths.
We reviewed documents representing millions of dollars in research and due diligence by the most respected marina development firms, IGY and their subsidiary, ATM Marine Engineers, EDSA land planners and Norton Consulting, all world leaders in planning and development studies and feasibility, cost and marketing research and consultancy.
Results from 20 years and several million dollars of continuously updated research and planning were there in front of us. We looked at each other several times knowing that as open as Gus was with us this day, sharing confidential information about the innermost details of his Master Plan, some of which we were asked not to reveal in print, there was a monumental truth still lingering back stage that he was not ready to share even with us today. Even in its mystery, we knew it gave Gus the assuredness to share as much as he did. Later, we were to deduce what that mystery missing ingredient was.
Derek Winzer, as head of Project Development for the Home Port and SBR Marina, had created an impeccably organized three ring binder with 250 to 300 pages of fact-filled four-color reports on every aspect of the 4,700 acre SBR Master Plan anchored by the Marina and Home Port. Derek has worked with all the high-powered research firms, hiring most of them and at the meeting was a veritable fountain of facts to substantiate the progress and status of the Home Port and Marina and just recently updated to include the new Convention Center.
Puerto Peñasco Convention Center Now a Reality
Gus has long recognized and agreed with the consensus of hoteliers and the convention bureau that a facility for meetings and conventions is a necessary key to building a base for tourism growth.
Possibly the one thing that everyone can agree on is that Puerto Peñasco will benefit from a Convention Center, and even certain aspects of that has factions drawing sides as to its size, location and who will manage it once built. When its reality first began to manifest was when the city, which was arranging the funding, selected a site at the old airport just north of Puerto Peñasco, a controversial location to say the least. No nearby amenities like hotels or restaurants, many voiced. Easy to find, said others.
The sagacity of our Mayor Alejandro Zepeda Munro lead him to take the issue to an outside tourism and convention consultancy who advised that the location indeed must be located within minutes of resorts and other amenities. Through the efforts of the governor and the Tourism Commission of Sonora, the Federal Department of Tourism appropriated 160 million pesos to fund the Convention Center, so the pressure was on the city to locate a site as soon as possible.
Enter Sandy Beach Resorts. Gus Brown recognized a win-win scenario for a parcel of land adjacent to one of his master-planned retail centers which was in a hold pattern awaiting the economic upturn. Once again, Gus was instrumental in jump starting a project that will benefit the entirety of our beach town.
To expedite groundbreaking, Gus donated that 20 acre parcel, now dedicated to the Convention Center, which in turn allowed the city to receive the initial 60 million of the 160 million peso fund and start construction immediately. Today you’ll see the graders clearing and leveling the site to the south of the old Cholla Road just east of the intersection of the new Cholla Road at SBR Headquarters. That is the exact location of the Convention Center complex, a modern design that will include an exhibit hall for trade shows, an auditorium, a building of breakout meeting rooms, and an outdoor amphitheater among other amenities.
The Convention Center is no longer a dream, its location no longer a rumor. Once again, thanks to the behind-the-scenes doer, Gus Brown, the iconic mystery man Rocky Point can proudly call its own; Puerto Peñasco boasts yet another foretelling marker of its position as an emerging tourism front runner.
In fact, we just learned that, even though construction has already started on the Convention Center, the Governor of Sonora will head up a ground breaking ceremony for the project while he is in town for the annual Arizona-Mexico Commission Meeting on February 9th. Stay tuned to our blog for the exact day and time for the ceremony.
Groundbreaking on the Home Port is Imminent
Gus Brown, Reyel Taylor and Derek Winzer have been deeply and actively involved in tying up all the myriad details associated with a project as significant as the Home Port concept.
The first arrival of the Holland America cruise ship at the Port of Guaymas took place in 2008 and was attended by the previous tourism commissioner, Pano Salido, along with the governor of Sonora and several HAL executives responsible for selecting the Guaymas Port, including Simon Souwes. At Gus’s invitation those executives came to Puerto Peñasco and Gus personally escorted them on a familiarization tour of the community.
(It is important to note that these Home Port renderings were created by the design team hired by the State Tourism Commission.)
Toward the end of the tour, the head of port call decisions, Mr. Simon Souwes, was very honest with the team from Rocky Point when he lauded the alluring atmosphere that the port town exudes, even saying that it was hard to describe the sense of friendliness and welcoming spirit one feels throughout the town. He continued, Puerto Peñasco has several advantages that would make it an ideal Home Port destination.
Among those points are: 1.) Rocky Point is conveniently located within driving distance of the Phoenix and Tucson cruise markets which provide the cruise lines with over 350,000 passengers a year, a market that is ripe for a completely new cruise experience; 2.) The recently completed Coastal Highway to Rocky Point makes southern California’s 1.4 million cruisers a highly potential drive in market as well 3.) Departing from Rocky Point would allow the cruise lines to include up to seven ports of call within the Sea of Cortez during a seven day cruise, creating the only itinerary in the Pacific that can accommodate that number of ports in such a short length of time; and 4.) a departure from Rocky Point would open a huge new market for the cruise lines—the Mexican cruise market—because Mexican Nationals would not be required to obtain passports before cruising since the entire cruise would be calling at Mexican ports of call from Mexican waters.
“What will it take to make this happen?” Gus asked, jumping on this opportunity. The HAL executive outlined three essential requirements of any cruise line before they could consider a cruise itinerary anywhere. Those items included 1.) A steady supply of the special fuel required by a mega cruise ship, 2.) Government authorization to operate casinos on the Sea of Cortez, since it is not considered international water, and 3.) Government authorization to operate Duty Free stores on board the cruise ships.
The HAL executive assured Gus at that time and has since reassured him and his team that with those conditions met, if the Home Port is built according to the meticulous plans they reviewed, that HAL and/or Carnival Cruise Lines will come.
Even though the economy was suffering from a domino-type collapse around the world, Gus Brown was too close now to give up his dream of a Home Port. Everyone else also, from the Mayors of all the coastal port cities, to their respective state governors, and all the way to the President of Mexico were able to see the nationwide impact of this project and they pulled out all the stops to support its successful manifestation.
We learned during our meeting the many primary and supporting facts that clearly substantiate the reality that funding for the Home Port is imminent.
Primary Fact: Funding
The surest form of federal funding in Mexico is that funding which is approved by the federal government by vote of congress.
Fund proposal for building the Home Port has been presented to and favorably received by the voting congress in the amount of more than $650,000,000 pesos.
Primary Fact: Government Authorizations
The authorizations required by the cruise lines as outlined during their visit in 2008 have been secured. Those are:
The special fuel required by mega cruise ships is currently supplied through Guaymas and could be available at the Home Port location in Rocky Point..
The federal government has authorized the operation of casinos on board cruise ships on the Sea of Cortez
The federal government has authorized the operation of Duty Free stores on board cruise ships on the Sea of Cortez.
All plans and studies have been conducted, concluded and approved by the federal agencies involved.
All engineering and architectural criteria required by cruise lines have been met and approved.
All infrastructure is in place underground to support the immediate start of construction.
Thus, the reality is that today the city of Puerto Peñasco stands at the threshold of preeminence among emerging world class destinations and on the verge of renown as, arguably, one of the greatest tourism discoveries in recent history.
You guessed it. What we later deduced as the one ingredient Gus would not share, but pretty much revealed itself in the confidence with which he revealed what he could: The secure status of funding for the Home Port.
If our deduction is correct, and we emphasize that it is only our deduction, though fairly well founded, but if it is correct, then Gus Brown’s dream has finally come together, proving that results through the persistence of one will benefit the many. Gus Brown is your friend, whether you know him or not. Let’s root for Gus Brown’s Dream!
This blog is brought to you by the Sonoran Resorts Sales Group, Jim Ringquist, Director of Sales