Coming marina celebrated

By: Christopher Sheid
Page Lake Powell Chronicle

Local, regional and national officials descended on Antelope Point May 5 to break ground on a long-awaited $70 million marina project that’s expected to provide a major economic boost to the Navajo Nation and the city of Page.

And on a day when blue skies and sunshine competed with cool wind and light rain, everyone agreed that after 30 years of talking, planning and false starts, the forecast for this ambitious new lake project promises to be spectacular.

“Today marks a new beginning at Antelope Point, and the fulfillment of a promise the U.S. government made to the Navajo Nation 30 years ago,” said Kitty Roberts, superintendent of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. “It’s definitely a time to celebrate.”

Antelope Point Marina is expected to consist of 300 boat slips, a dry dock with a 500-boat capacity, a 225-room hotel, and a Navajo cultural center, among other amenities. The $70 million project is expected to take between six and eight years to reach final completion, but marina officials hope the facility will be operational by the 2004 visitors season.

Tommy Tsosie, the LeChee chapter representative to the Navajo Nation Tribal Council, reminisced about how tribal officials made a deal more than 30 years ago to give up the land known as Antelope Point to the federal government in exchange for the promise of beneficial development on that property.

Now that such development is finally under way, Tsosie said that LeChee hopes the marina will encourage more visitors to come see the Navajo lands and its many natural wonders.

“We live in a land of red. Red rocks, red buttes, even the sand is red. There are many places to see and things to do around here,” Tsosie said. “We extend to you our friendliest invitation to come see us. We would be more than glad to welcome you.”

Navajo Nation Vice President Frank Dayish, Jr. told the crowd that Antelope Point will benefit the reservation not only through increased tourism, but also with the creation of numerous jobs for its residents. The project is expected to create about 175 temporary construction jobs and 150 or so permanent jobs once the facility opens for business.

“One of the major goals of the Shirley-Dayish administration is to focus on job creation,” Dayish said after the groundbreaking. “We want to provide jobs for anyone who wants to work. When you have 45-50 percent unemployment, anything that creates even one job benefits the whole Navajo Nation.”

Lawrence Platero, chairman of the Navajo Nation’s Economic Development Committee, gave the crowd some hard numbers reflecting the marina’s anticipated economic impact on LeChee and the reservation.

The project is expected to generate $1.4 million annually in land-lease revenues, another $1.4 million in tax proceeds, and $10 million each year in payroll salaries for its workers. The marina’s overall economic impact for the area is projected to be about $30 million each year.

After the event’s main speakers addressed the crowd, NPS, tribal and marina officials and media traveled to a nearby mesa, where the official groundbreaking took place.

Afterward, David Finch, a representative of Antelope Holdings L.L.C., offered some insight into what Antelope Point Marina will look like. Rather than typical modern structures, Finch said the marina’s buildings will be patterned after Navajo architectural designs, thereby allowing them to fit in with the surrounding scenery.

“It’s not going to be a two-story, monolithic structure,” Finch said of the marina’s proposed hotel. “It’s going to be a very warm, comfortable environment.”

National Park Service Director Fran Mainella also attended the event, and in her remarks to the crowd the director mentioned that the Navajo Nation’s agreement with the U.S. government regarding development of Antelope Point was forged back under President Richard Nixon’s administration.

Now, 30 years later, Mainella said the marina project has finally come to fruition, thanks to the strength of the partnership between NPS, the Navajo Nation, LeChee, Antelope Point Holdings and other local entities.

“I believe in partnerships. Nothing can be done unless we work together. We can’t do it alone,” Mainella said. “Today, we are really seeing history in the making, and we are part of that history.”

Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza, a longtime visitor to Lake Powell who attended the May 5 ceremony, said he believes Antelope Point Marina and the publicity it’s receiving will help bring more down-state business to the Page area.

“It’s really going to mean a lot for Page,” Rimsza said. “There is so much tourism potential here, untapped tourism potential. There are 3.5 million people in Phoenix, and probably 500,000 of them don’t even know where Lake Powell is. To me, this is as amazing as the Grand Canyon, and we need to let people know that it’s here.”

Local officials who attended the groundbreaking included everyone from Page Mayor J. Dean Slavens and Councilors Dan Brown, John Cook and Michael Anderson to Coconino County Supervisor Louise Yellowman, among many others.


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