During the course of developing the vision for Breakwater Chicago, the floating entertainment vessel that my team and I are currently designing, our conceptual drawings have brought about lots of interesting adjectives from our friends, supporters and the press. Since nobody has ever really seen anything like us before, imaginations ran wild and we heard some doozies! I wanted to share a few of my favorites from the last year, since we first made our public announcement, but I also wanted to fill everyone in on what we really will be when we hit the water next year.
The Next Navy Pier – The first headline that broke our story, written by Sandra Guy from the Chicago Sun-Times, read, “Why a floating resort could be the next Navy Pier.” This was an incredibly flattering statement, especially since Navy Pier is Illinois’s most-visited tourist destination, with more than 8 million visitors each year. Sandra’s headline really set the stage perfectly for us in many ways: 1) we aspire to be a top attraction for Chicago and Illinois, so this put us in darn good company; 2) one of my favorite seafood restaurants, Riva Restaurant by Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants, is at Navy Pier and we hope to deliver top-notch food and beverage for our guests as well; and 3) the views looking back at the Chicago skyline from the end of Navy Pier are spectacular and we hope to offer guests a similar experience, including watching the sun set behind the skyline to the West. All in all, I don’t think we’ll be the next Navy Pier, but I do think we’ll be the next big enhancement around Navy Pier, and yet another reason to visit Navy Pier, on your way to visit Breakwater Chicago.
The Next Bean – For any of you that live in Chicago, or have every visited here, chances are that you’ve been over to Millennium Park to see the now-famous sculpture officially titled Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, but affectionately known as “The Bean.” This might be my favorite analogy, since I happen to love the Bean. Apart from drawing in a jaw-dropping number of visitors each year, the Bean has quickly jumped into the ranks of the top things to see in Chicago, with the likes of Willis Tower, The Art Institute of Chicago, and Shedd Aquarium. I can only hope that Breakwater Chicago also has this sort of positive impact on our great city, and that people consider a visit to Breakwater Chicago as one of the “must haves” for their stay in Chicago. Plus, if we have as many selfies with our venue in the background as the Bean does on social media, I will be a happy camper.
Not the Screwiest Idea Chicago’s Ever Seen – There was a really fun follow-on piece in Crain’s Chicago Business last year, written by Zoe Galland after their original story by Brigid Sweeney, titled, “That party barge isn’t the screwiest idea Chicago’s ever seen.” In this piece, Zoe highlights other big ideas that have been proposed over the years: Spanish Steps near Michigan Avenue, Gondolas on the Chicago River, Andrew Mason’s dome over the city, Block 37’s underground Blue Line Superstation, the City of Lights, Chicago Spire, Lake Michigan Airport, and the Chicago Grand Prix. I almost have to blush to be considered in the same category as some of the coolest ideas I’ve heard of or seen over the last several years, but the big difference is that these ideas all stalled or failed, and our team is determined to deliver on the promise we’ve made to the residents and visitors of our great city. The best part of the whole article, though – and that’s saying a lot based on the other projects we were likened to – is that the Crain’s editorial board wrote a third piece on our story based on Zoe’s article, and one of their quotes was, “Chicago has always embraced the philosophy [of ‘make no little plans’] … That’s why plans to build a 300-by-100 foot floating island off the shore of Lake Michigan warmed our hearts…”
Party Barge – This combo is tricky, because it’s 100% true and yet 50% false. “How is that possible, Mr. Math Genius?” you might ask. Well the two words are independently accurate. The naval engineers we’ve hired are experts on all types of barge vessels, and at the end of the day, they see our vessel structurally as a barge. On the party piece, while I sure hope that our guests have a good time and enjoy themselves while they’re onboard, we do not plan on recreating an MTV Spring Break series at Breakwater Chicago. So “party” and “barge” being what they are individually is 100% accurate, but putting them together is where the equation has a hard time holding water (yes, we use lots of boat and water-related puns!). When I think of a “party barge,” I start envisioning an old rusty bucket pushed out in the middle of a river with people drunk and falling overboard as part of the entertainment. I can assure you that is not what we’re shooting for at Breakwater Chicago and the party that we host on our barge will more than just a tad nicer, safer, and more fun than the mental image I probably just conjured up for you.
Floating Island – In my humble opinion, this is probably the best descriptor for the experience that we’re planning to emulate onboard Breakwater Chicago. An article written by Emily Wachowiak of Groupon coined the term, “Yacht-Island,” and that brought a smile to my face. Our goal is to provide guests with the feeling of being like one of my business heroes, Larry Ellison of Oracle. Mr. Ellison is lucky enough to own a beautiful 288-foot superyacht called Musashi and 98% of the sixth largest island in the Hawaiian chain, Lanai, which covers 140 square miles. The design of Breakwater Chicago is to merge these two pieces together and provide a sort of floating private island that, on the exterior, looks like Musashi while the interior has the feel of Lanai. We want guests to pull up to our docks and think, “This looks like a big boat!” and then when they step through the doorway they’ll swear that they’re on solid land. So that being said, the “Floating Island” is what I typically say when explaining to people what we’re working on at Breakwater Chicago.
The Reality Is, It’s a Vessel – While all of these descriptors are fun to think about, and in many cases, flattering for our team, the fact of the matter is that Breakwater Chicago will be a 300-foot commercial passenger vessel regulated by the United States Coast Guard. Yes, that means that we’ll have to have nearly 3,000 life jackets on board, along with safety rafts and life boats. It’s critical that we design a vessel that is both functional and safe, and that’s why we’ve hired the top naval engineering firm in the country to deliver our design package. Once that’s completed, a shipyard will turn those drawings into reality using hundreds of tons of steel, dozens of welders, and a dry-dock big enough to house a hull that will be as large as a football field. The naval engineers’ calculations are showing excellent stability ratings, even under heavy weather, so the “island” component of our experience is where it needs to be. That’s important because several members of my family get seasick easily, and if my mom can’t come out to see what her “bouncing baby boy” has created, I’m going to be in serious trouble when Christmas rolls around.
In summary, no matter what you call it, Breakwater Chicago is poised to be a new iconic feature for Chicago and Illinois, and something that I hope all Chicagoans will be proud of. Once we’re floating next year, you’ll have a chance to be like [enter your favorite billionaire] and enjoy your very own super yacht -slash- private island, and all the amenities, views, and good times that come along with it!