Sunseeker Resort Charlotte Harbor could open by early 2023

August 4th, 2021

By Laura Finaldi - Sarasota Herald-Tribune - USA Today Network

Photo Credit Thomas Bender – Sarasota Herald-Tribune

PORT CHARLOTTE — Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the frame of the unfinished Sunseeker Resort Charlotte Harbor has become a familiar sight for anyone who regularly passes between Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda.  But once the destination resort with a rooftop pool, cozy guest rooms and event spaces with sweeping views of the Peace River actually opens, it might be easier to let go of those mental images of grey scaffolding and construction cranes.

Allegiant Travel Company, the developer and owner of Sunseeker Resort Charlotte Harbor, announced Tuesday morning that it will resume construction on its destination resort later this month.  If all goes well with labor, access to raw materials and current construction schedules, Sunseeker could welcome its first guests as early as 2023.  Allegiant stopped construction on Sunseeker when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year. The plan was to get the company’s balance sheet back to where it needed to be and then resume construction.

Now that travel is returning, vaccines are being distributed and financing is easier to obtain, construction can resume, John Redmond, president of Allegiant, said at an on-site press conference.  “We have been working day and night to try to bring this thing to fruition,” Redmond said.  Sunseeker is Allegiant’s first venture into the resort business. Allegiant’s airline currently flies out of nine airports in Florida, including Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Punta Gorda Airport, which is about 10 minutes from Sunseeker.  The airline moves about 8 million leisure travelers in and out of Florida every year, Redmond said, and will likely fly 2 million people in and out of Punta Gorda Airport alone by 2022. Punta Gorda was its best performing airport throughout the pandemic, Redmond said.  “We understood the desire and the popularity of Southwest Florida. We didn’t need a pandemic to prove it – we obviously never wanted it to happen but it has been kind of interesting that that has been somewhat of a validation on this location, this area and what’s going to happen down here,” Redmond said.

The Sunseeker resort will consist of three towers. The main building will have 55,000 square feet of meeting and event space overlooking where the Peace River converges with Charlotte Harbor, a state-of-the-art spa and fitness center, 512 hotel rooms, a promenade on the first floor flanked by restaurants, bars and retail stores and a rooftop pool and restaurant that will only be accessible to hotel guests.  The other two towers, south of the main building, will be filled with extended stay rooms. There will be a steakhouse and Italian restaurant on the ground floor of one of them. And in the Peace River right next to the main building of the hotel, there will be a marina with a capacity of more than 200 boats.  In total, Redmond said, Sunseeker will have 785 keys – 512 in the hotel, and 273 keys for the suites. The one-bedroom suites are 850 square feet, and the three bedrooms are 1,550 square feet. The suites will have full kitchens with sub-zero refrigerators, Wolf appliances and full-sized washers and dryers.  As part of Sunseeker, Allegiant is also renovating the Kingsway Golf Course, which will open at the same time as the hotel for resort guests and members. Construction on the site will begin in the fall, led by Kipp Schulties, a renowned golf architect who has designed more than 60 courses, including the Boca Raton Resort & Club.

Construction on Sunseeker originally started in late 2018. After COVID hit, the airline pulled out of some more restrictive financing deals and had to find new money sources, which took awhile, because lenders were hesitant to give out funds at the beginning of the pandemic. But the company recently secured a $350 million construction loan from an undisclosed lender and placed the hotel as collateral.  The stalled construction had fanned rumors that the Sunseeker site was up for sale. But that was never on the agenda, Redmond said.  “There were all kinds of rumors out there about people suggesting that various church groups were looking at it, that we’re going to sell it, partner in a joint venture, this and that. That’s just the normal speculation that happens in any newsworthy story,” he said. “But it was never something on our list.”

When it opens, Sunseeker will have about 1,150 employees, making it the third largest employer in Southwest Florida, according to the company. During construction, the site will employ about 800 people, Redmond said.  Allegiant is currently trying to figure out how Sunseeker could be affected by raw materials shortages that are currently impacting the global economy. The company is about 30-45 days away from understanding the full impact of this issue, Redmond said, but he doesn’t expect it to have a big impact on the construction schedule or costs.  “It’s in our best interests and everyone’s to get this open as fast as we can, so we’re going to be moving very quickly,” he said.