TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - If you build it, they will come. That's the hope and plan for a cruise ship Home Port in Rocky Point, Mexico. Once completed, people living in Tucson and Phoenix will be only a few hour's drive from being able to catch a luxury cruise ship that will sail up and down the Sea of Cortez.
Construction on the massive project is in full swing and it has the backing of the Mexican federal government which has already spent 190 million pesos for the first phase and has committed 300-million pesos this year; that equates to roughly $360,000,000 U.S. dollars.
Building began in mid-December and crews are working seven days a week, hauling in rocks by the truckload, to build the future Home Port that will stretch a kilometer, or about 6/10's of a mile, out into the sea on the west end of Sandy Beach towards Cholla Bay.
Last week Guillermo Padrés, the governor of Sonora, Mexico, visited the Home Port to view the progress first hand and show his commitment to the project telling the crowd, "the best is yet to come," and "we proved that dreams do come true," saying the project will create steady and stable tourism that will benefit everyone in the region.
Puerto Penasco is a popular getaway for Arizonans, with thousands owning condos and homes there, and even more who visit every year.
People like Robert and Linda Plante of Sierra Vista who've been going down for nearly 20 years. I visited with them from their campsite at the Reef RV Park Campground, just yards from where the pier is being built, "this is like the last unspoiled section of Sand Beach until this," says Robert as he looks at the progress with mixed emotions, "I'd like to see it work for the locals but if you go by all the other projects in downtown Rocky Point, there's a lot of unfinished projects, so that would be the travesty here; to spoil the last part of this beach here for an unfinished project."
Plante points to an unfinished tall-standing condo complex next to the port. It's been that way for about ten years. His wife, Linda, shares the same sentiment, "if it's good for the town, and we hope it is, we're trying to be positive about it, it kind of takes away from the quaintness of the area, watching it get that big but we're not quite sure how it's going to work."
What she's referring to is Rocky Point's infrastructure. Many wonder if this small town can handle the sudden influx of thousands of people a cruise ship will bring all at once, "the roads aren't prepared for it," Linda says, "the people aren't prepared for it. They're all wanting it to be positive but I don't know they're prepared for it yet."
The owner of Wrecked at the Reef Cantina and Grill, which is right next to where the port is being built, agrees. He told me while the town isn't ready right now, it will be by the time the port is finished sometime next year. He's one of the business owners banking on the port's success and is working hard with other community leaders to get the once-sleepy fishing community ready for a potential boom in business and economic development.
Cristina Garcia and her family own one of the most popular restaurants in Rocky Point. El Capitan sits on a hill next to the lighthouse overlooking the marina and the old-port area filled with shops, bars, and eateries. In her broken English she says the community is coming together to make it work, "everybody talk about this. We are training to do good things, to learn how to receive that (many) people. We have to seat everything for how many people."
For Arizonans with homes and condos in Rocky Point, a cruise ship port will most likely bring a boost in property values. They'll have the opportunity to rent out to passengers as they arrive a day or two early to catch a cruise or if they want to unwind for a day or two after the cruise.
Jim Ringquist is the sales director at Sonoran Resorts, a company that operates four luxury resort/condos on Sandy Beach. He says the Home Port will be a game changer for Puerto Penasco, "progress and change is inevitable and this will be great for property values, infrastructure advances, local jobs and the overall economy of Rocky Point."
Ringquist says many local residents have been struggling for years and this is what they need, "it will most certainly attract tourists from all over the world to visit our very unique area. The Sea of Cortez is a truly wonderful and diverse place and this new route will give the world a chance to appreciate her."
Although some are uncertain about the future of this Home Port, many more are excited and banking on the future of this project with the hopes of bringing a much need economic boost to a town that's seen its fair share of ups and downs.