Topock 66 Spa & Resort owner Chet Hitt was the keynote speaker who impressed the Lake Havasu Marine Association Wednesday at Shugrue’s Bridgeview Room.
Hitt shared an anecdotal history of what led him to tear down a longtime riverfront business and push forward with a two-phase, large-scale project.
“I had a vacation house there on the point,” Hitt said during the meeting. “It was a cool trailer that I had fixed up. I had my boat and had a great place. I had a good thing going and life was good.”
When the park and marina sold, Hitt was unable to negotiate a long-term lease. He also learned the new owner planned to kick everybody out and make the marina private — and planned to live in Hitt’s house.
During a conflict over breakfast with the new owner, Hitt told him if the sale didn’t close escrow that he himself was set to buy it.
“I took on the marina,” Hitt said. “The first week, I fired a guy for smacking a guy on the butt. The next day, the guy shot a shot gun at me. So, welcome to Topock.”
Hitt began to remodel the bar and restaurant. When he overheard a woman in the park complaining about the new owner putting all of his money into the restaurant while ignoring the launch ramp, he made a sign.
“I made a sign that said ‘Welcome to the worst launch ramp on the river,’ and then I raised the price from $7 to $15,” Hitt said.
The sign soon became a photography sensation.
As time went on, Hitt focused on upgrading the docks in the marina. In the three years it took to secure seawall permits, the economy tanked and stalled the project.
“In the meantime, my bar was falling into the river so we tore the building down,” Hitt said.
With seawall permits finally approved by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hitt was stopped by an imaginary blue line. The line is a Federal Emergency Management Agency flood plain line that couldn’t be manipulated.
“Well, I fought the government, and I lost,” Hitt said.
The blue line resulted in a $500,000 project design change that raised a portion of the project 11 feet.
Now, Hitt has secured funding, and construction has started. The first-phase includes construction of a bar and restaurant, a pool and outdoor event area. The 102-room hotel is slotted for the second-phase. Overall, the project is estimated at $13.8 million.
Hitt plans to market the Route 66-themed resort to the European market and winter retreat business. The tentative phase-one construction completion date is March 1, 2013.
The proposed project features amenities that include a spa, motorcycle or watercraft rentals, kayak or off-road excursions, conference center, barbecue smokehouse, microbrewery, nightclub, boardwalk, kid’s play area, wedding packages and the largest Route 66 memorabilia gift shop in the region.
The site’s boat launch ramp currently is operational, and the marina currently has 122 boat slips.
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