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PR gains riverfront tourism, recreation hub

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Published:   |   Updated: December 12, 2013 at 04:43 PM

PORT RICHEY — With tourism rebounding in the region, Gill Dawg Marina and Event Center owner Erik Suojanen is striving to create a tourist and entertainment magnet at a waterfront site.

Suojanen bought the 3.5 acres of property at 5419 Treadway Drive in 2011 along the Pithlachascotee River. He has been gearing up toward full operations the past two and a half years at the “recreation and entertainment hub.”

Final preparations took place this week to open the kitchen that will supply a steady stream of delectable dishes at the tiki bar.

“The city has been awesome,” Suojanen said Tuesday about his development. He appreciated the advice of Port Richey City Manager Tom O’Neill and building official Bill Golberg. John Hagen, president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council, and his staff provided many insights.

O’Neill said Wednesday that he was “excited to see Mr. Suojanen’s interest and investment in the city’s Waterfront Overlay District.”

The Port Richey Waterfront Overlay District is the largest commercial waterfront in the area, O’Neill emphasized in an email reply to inquiries.

“The Gill Dawg site development, creativity and private investment by Mr. Suojanen will further enhance our waterfront on the Pithlaschascotee River as a destination point in Pasco County,” O’Neill said.

“We’re trying to make this a destination,” Suojanen said. People can find “fun stuff to do,” according to a website blurb, without the long drive to Clearwater, St. Petersburg or Tampa and fighting through big crowds.

Several concerts are booked for the 35,000-square-foot Wayne’s World Event Center. Up next will be the Lauren Mitchell Band, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, with a $5 cover charge.

The venue can be rented for catered parties, weddings, reunions, company outings and other occasions.

A salvaged sailboat adds some charm to the events center as a backdrop for the stage.

The DiRenzo’s tiki bar could become a big lure for patrons looking for a full-liquor bar. The menu features sandwiches made with fresh ingredients, including locally grown produce.

“We’re trying to stay as fresh as possible,” he said. He envisions an organic garden at the site to supply ingredients.

Suojanen takes a “very eco-friendly approach” since his facility lies close to Waterfront Park and Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park.

The marina has 1,200 feet of boardwalks that Suojanen hopes to tie in with other area boardwalks.

Also part of the mix are guided eco-tours, paddlesports equipment, pontoon and jon boat rentals, jet skis, fishing charters, dive charters and sunset cruises.

For information, call (727) 842-1070 or visit gilldawg.com.

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