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12-acre water park part of MargaritaVillage plans
Aug 21, 2015 - 6:08 AM - by Ryan C.
Water park, swim lagoon part of MargaritaVillage plans

New details about the proposed MargaritaVillage development in Osceola County emerged during a county meeting Wednesday, including information about a water park planned for the resort and a central lagoon licensed for swimming.

Bagley, general manager of Encore Capital Management, the project's developer, said the water park would be at the entrance of the 300-acre lifestyle destination resort.

"It will be a themed water park open to the public, and it will also serve the residents," said Bagley after a Development Review Committee meeting. "But it will also serve tourism and the Greater Orlando area."

The 12-acre water park will be off U.S. Highway 192 just east of State Road 429. Its theme has not yet been announced.

Water amenities will carry through the resort, with plans for a large pool as a focal point.

"The hotel, time shares and condominiums will be surrounded by a lagoon that will be … Florida Department of Health-licensed as a swimming pool," said Bagley. A similar feature is part of plans for several Florida developments, including a resort in the Lake Nona area, where an 11-acre man-made lagoon would anchor some watersports activities similar to those planned for MargaritaVillage.

Bagley and Margaritaville officials announced last week that the MargaritaVillage project is planned for the site of the old Splendid China attraction. It will feature a Margaritaville-branded hotel and a community themed around the relaxed coastal lifestyle described in singer Jimmy Buffett's music.

Margaritaville Resort coming to Central Florida
Caitlin Dineen joins the Orlando News Now team to talk about Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Resort that is coming to Central Florida.
At Wednesday's meeting, during which county officials asked about a construction timeline and potential traffic problems, committee members approved the project's preliminary subdivision plan.

Plans for MargaritaVillage's multifaceted development will be submitted and reviewed in phases, said Bagley. The county will need to approve all engineering plans for the project before developers can start construction, scheduled for the second half of 2016.

Providing more detailed information than was provided for last week's public announcement, Bagley said Wednesday that the hotel would have about 200 rooms and 437 vacation-rental homes, 300 time-share units, and 340 apartments would be built on site.

He also better described the planned layout and construction of the resort.

Amenities of the resort, including the water park and 200,000 square feet of retail, are expected to open in early 2017 and be complete by midyear. Bagley said full build-out of the vacation-rental homes will be by 2021.

Bagley did not discuss potential retail brands but described it as a "very festive retail community" that will also be "village style," located at the front entrance off U.S. 192 and facing the main road into the development.
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Jimmy Buffett joins chorus to change Mississippi state flag
Aug 17, 2015 - 4:44 AM - by Ryan C.
In a letter appearing in a full-page ad in today's Clarion-Ledger, author John Grisham, actor Morgan Freeman, legendary quarterback Archie Manning, "The Help" author Kathryn Stockett and others are calling for removal of the Confederate emblem from Mississippi's state flag.

With other states removing their Confederate battle flags, Mississippi remains the last with the Confederate emblem flying over the statehouse.

"It is simply not fair, or honorable, to ask black Mississippians to attend schools, compete in athletic events, work in the public sector, serve in the National Guard, and go about their normal lives with a state flag that glorifies a war fought to keep their ancestors enslaved," the letter says. "It's time for Mississippi to fly a flag for all its people."

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale and Mississippi business leader Jack Reed Sr. signed the letter. So did music legend Jimmy Buffett, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford, Grammy-winning producer Glen Ballard, Basketball Hall of Famer Bailey Howell, former Gov. William Winter, baseball legend Boo Ferriss and a host of others.

The letter is the latest in a growing wave, from House Speaker Philip Gunn to Mississippi's SEC football coaches to the great-great-grandson of Confederate President Jefferson Davis — all saying the Confederate battle flag belongs in a museum.

"The tide is turning with business leadership saying it hurts our ability to recruit corporations and with coaches saying it hurts our ability to recruit athletes," said state Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson. "The flag is a turnoff."

But those who rallied Mississippi to vote nearly 2-to-1 to keep the flag in 2001 say the arguments that failed last time have yet to change.

"Rap and hip-hop artists use the (Confederate battle) flag so that kind of sucks the wind out of the 'offensive' argument," said Greg Stewart, administrator of Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library.

Gov. Phil Bryant pointed out that voters spoke on the matter in 2001.

Author Greg Iles, who signed the letter, said 14 years is a long time.

"Think of America in 1931 and then in 1945 — that's 14 years, and a tectonic shift in national identity. Think of 1961 and 1975," he said. "The Confederate flag is no longer a viable state or national symbol in 2015."

He believes that "clinging to the past through symbols is hurting Mississippi now," he said. "And it has the potential to cripple economic development going forward."

Bryant says he has no plans to call a special session on the matter.

If the governor were to call a special session later this year for economic development, Horhn expects the flag issue to be raised.

In a survey conducted by The Clarion-Ledger, 64 of Mississippi's lawmakers said they supported changing the flag, 24 opposed it, nine said they were undecided, and 96 wouldn't respond or give an answer.

Of those that did respond, most Democrats supported the change, while most Republicans opposed it.

Stewart said he believes the only way a flag bill could make it through the Legislature would be "a raw power move in January, and they have to hope the public is stupid enough to forget, which they're not going to."

If a change ever takes place, "it has to come from the people, otherwise it'll cause more problems than it solves," he said.

He is already gathering signatures for a referendum, most likely in 2017, which would add Mississippi's flag to the state Constitution.

On June 17, white supremacist Dylann Roof allegedly walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and killed the Rev. Clementa Pinckney (who was also a state senator) and eight other members.

On a website authorities found, Roof talked of wanting to start a race war.

In one photo, he posed with a U.S. flag set on fire. In another, he posed with a Confederate battle flag, wearing a T-shirt that said "88," a reference to "Heil, Hitler."

In the wake of that massacre, Republican Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley took down Confederate... [Read More]
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MargaritaVillage on track for county approval
Aug 15, 2015 - 4:40 AM - by Ryan C.
Developers of the proposed MargaritaVillage resort in western Osceola County are on track to get approval to construct the massive 300-acre lifestyle community.

The project, located off U.S. 192 near the interchange with State Road 429, would include a hotel and more than 1,000 timeshare units, condominiums and vacation homes.

The county's Development Review Committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal during its Aug. 19 meeting. The project's preliminary subdivision plan, which details the overall concept and plan for the resort, will be reviewed, according to a meeting agenda.

Mark Pino, the county's spokesman, said Encore, as they said Wednesday, could receive final approval for the entire project in six months.

"It is entirely possible for the Margarita Resort developer to, as they told you yesterday, begin construction in six months as the property was already rezoned for Commercial Tourist," Pino said in an email.

So far, Encore Capital Management, the resort's developers, have not filed official plans with the county and the only permit requested was to realign an access road onto the property off U.S. 192.

Preliminary plans posted on the Osceola County website show general plans for the parcel. The resort's main entrance would be off U.S. 192 with non-residential buildings near the main entrance. The resort, to be built on the former Splendid China attraction site, will be themed around the laid-back atmosphere described in Jimmy Buffett songs.

Further into the resort, the Margaritaville-branded hotel becomes the focal point. It's expected to have 175 to 300 rooms.

About 200 timeshare units would be located adjacent to the proposed hotel. The rest of the community includes about 500 vacation-rental homes, 200 condominiums, 350 apartments, and land for various amenities.

The construction of so many vacation-rental homes aligns with an Osceola marketing push. Kissimmee is in the process of trademarking the "Vacation Home Capital of the World" moniker.

More than 3,000 new vacation-rental homes are expected around Kissimmee during the next three to four years, DT Minich, president and chief executive officer of Experience Kissimmee, the region's tourism authority, said last month.

MargaritaVillage plans also include an arcade, a Spa, a planetarium, a fishing school, paddle boarding and kayaking. Bagley said water elements and outdoor activities would be an integral part of the resort's design. Additionally, 170,000 square feet of retail space will be built.

Jim Bagley, general manager of Encore, said they hope to start vertical construction in the third quarter of next year. The resort would open in early 2017, said Bagley, with a six-month window for the entire resort to be operational, said Art Falcone, managing principal and co-founder of Encore.

Pino said the final plan, once submitted, will not go before county commissioners for approval. The review committee will need to give initial approval for the concept; the site development plan would then be finalized and reviewed by county staff and administrators in the Community Development Department, said Pino.

After that plan is approved, Encore can plan pre-construction meetings and begin building.

Get transported to paradise through the Margaritaville branded resort that will include a hotel, vacation ownership, and vacation homes in Orlando, Florida. Inspired by the lifestyle celebrated in Jimmy Buffett’s iconic songs, the resort will become an oasis for relaxation and fun – that “one particular harbour” – and will offer many experiential opportunities including a “FinCity” arcade, St. Somewhere Spa, planetarium, large water park, and Son of a Sailor fishing school, paddle boarding, and kayaking along with many other world-class themed experiences for every age. The 300-acre community will be located on US Highway 192 near State Road 429 in western Osceola County.
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Jimmy and the band have released Workin' N' Playin' on iTunes!
Aug 14, 2015 - 9:14 AM - by Ryan C.

Jimmy and the band have released Workin' N' Playin' on iTunes!

Download it now!
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Watch: Jimmy Buffett talks about his love for the Saints
Aug 13, 2015 - 3:57 AM - by Ryan C.

The king of the parrotheads is a longtime Saints fan.

Jimmy Buffett stopped by Saints camp in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia on Tuesday for a first-hand look at the team’s preparations.

He liked what he saw.

“Rob [Ryan] is assuring me that this defense is going to be better and I like looking at some of the younger players out there,” said Buffett. “What's the guy’s from Clemson? I like him - Stephone Anthony - and I like Max Unger. They are solid up that middle there and he is a good parrothead too, so I was checking on that. I like what we are doing."

Buffett described himself as a life-long Saints fan. His history with Sean Payton goes back to his days in Dallas.

"Well it all started when Sean was an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys and we did a show in Dallas and he, Butch Johnson and Troy Aikman had come. They had a couple of beers at the show,” Buffett said. “In those days, we had a giant shark as a part of our show, kind of the attraction that would go across the audience but we had to have it on a tether for obvious reasons. I'm up there playing in front of 20,000 people and I see these crazy guys trying to pull the shark down. It was them. So then I sent my security guys down there I said ' get those guys off of that shark' and the next thing I knew he is high-fiving him and they brought him back and that's when I met Sean. He was a big fan and when he came to the Saints we kind of connected back up."

Video not showing? Click here.
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Margaritaville resort to be built in Orlando
Aug 13, 2015 - 3:52 AM - by Ryan C.
A new resort called Margaritavillage, which will include a hotel, more than 1,000 vacation homes and condos, retail and a beach area, will open in Osceola County in 2017, its developers said Wednesday.

A rendering of the water park area for the future Margaritaville Resort coming to Osceola County.

The community, styled around the coastal, paradise vibes of singer Jimmy Buffett, will be built on the 305-acre parcel of land on U.S. Highway 192 near Disney's Animal Kingdom. The site was previously the location of the Splendid China attraction, which closed in 2003.

"It encompasses a lifestyle," said Jim Bagley, managing directorof the developer, Encore Capital Management. "It's less about a product and more about a lifestyle."

News of the planned development was welcomed by the region's tourism leaders, many of whom have worked to revamp and rebrand the county known as the entry to Walt Disney World — including its recent emphasis on vacation homes.

"I think it's going to call a lot of attention to the destination," said DT Minich, president and chief executive officer of Experience Kissimmee, the area's tourism and marketing board. "What a great asset to have, not just the hotel, but the brand and the restaurants."

Encore has roots in Central Florida and is part of the growing construction of large vacation rental homes in Osceola County and, specifically, Kissimmee. Many of those homes are the Encore Resort Homes at Reunion, which runs at an 85 percent occupancy rate, Bagley said.

Although there are three Jimmy Buffett-branded Margaritaville hotels in the nation, with the fourth scheduled to open next month in Hollywood Beach, this is the first destination resort of its kind, Encore said. Falcone said Encore leaders are already looking at ways to build similar Margaritavillage destinations in other tourist hot spots.

Encore officials first filed plans with Osceola County officials for development of that parcel in April 2014, when the project was a mixed-used site called Rolling Oaks.

County commissioners still need to give the project final approval, which Encore officials said will take about six months.

Part of the plans are under review with the county's Community Development Department. Comments for those plans are due today.

"We tried to put together good, solid business procedures that we're able to show the developers we're business-friendly," said District 1 county Commissioner Michael Harford.

The Margaritavillage hotel is expected to have 175 to 300 rooms and would include a lake with a dedicated beach area and a regional water park. A "lagoon-sized" pool is also planned, said Bagley.

The development plans also include a "FinCity" arcade, a St. Somewhere Spa, a planetarium, a Son of a Sailor fishing school, paddle boarding and kayaking.

Additionally, 170,000 square feet of retail space will be built. No brands have been announced, but Bagley said there's been strong demand for leasing information.

Encore will develop and own food-and-beverage options, which have not been detailed, at the resort. Plans do not include building a Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant, said Bagley. There's a Margaritaville restaurant at Universal Orlando CityWalk, near the entrance of the Island of Adventure theme park.

Site preparation is underway, and developers expect to begin vertical construction in the third quarter of 2016. All phases of the project will be under construction at the same time.

The resort is scheduled to open in phases in early 2017, said Bagley. Art Falcone, managing principal and co-founder of Encore, said the whole development should be open within six months of the first grand opening.

"With mixed-use, you have to do them all at the same time," said Falcone. "All of them work off of each other."

Developers expect 700 new full-time jobs to be created as a result of the new construction.

The community will have no restrictions on who can buy in, developers said, expecting it to attract people looking for a secondary home or rental properties to manage.

No matter who buys, they should be prepared to be surrounded by the casual,... [Read More]
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Jimmy Buffett pays a visit to New Orleans Saints training camp Tuesday
Aug 11, 2015 - 10:06 AM - by Ryan C.

It's well documented that Pascagoula native Jimmy Buffett is a big New Orleans Saints fan.

The multi-talented artist proved it again Tuesday.

Buffett visited Saints camp at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia to take in the final Saints full scale scrimmage before their exhibition opener Thursday night. Multiple media reports indicate that the singer/songwriter/author/actor/entrepreneur hung out on the sidelines and watched the team go through drills and chatted with head coach Sean Payton, Saints broadcaster Bobby Hebert and Marshall Faulk of the NFL Network as well.

Being born in South Mississippi and growing up in Mobile probably was a harbinger of Buffett becoming a Saints fan. He has remained a fan over the many years no matter where his travels take him.

Buffett was in attendance for two of the biggest games in team history; the NFC championship game win at the Superdome over Minnesota in January of 2010 as well as the only Super Bowl appearance in team history when the Saints beat the Colts in Miami two weeks later.

He attends several Saints games each season. And if his interest in the pre-season is any indication, he will be in that umber when the Saints go marching in several times this year as well.
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Jimmy Buffett Surprises Wounded Warriors & METRO Parrot Head Club
Aug 11, 2015 - 10:03 AM - by Ryan C.

Amagansett Farm, East Hampton, NY – was One Particular Harbor of love on Saturday July 19, 2015 when the Wounded Warrior Project/Soldier Ride returned to town for the 11th year!

The METRO Parrot Head Club had 28 volunteers reporting for duty at 6:00 a.m. to our east end Commander, Joe Lombardi. Joe has been coordinating the club’s participation in this wonderful event since 2007 when the ride route passed the location of our annual family picnic. We established a water stop in full PH/tropical/Tiki style and provided drinks to the passing riders. And water.

Since then, the event has flourished and so has METRO’s volunteer participation. We now assist with registration, breakfast set-up, bike repair service, serving BBQ lunch prepared by the Amagansett Fire Department, break-down, and of course, cheering all the riders from start to finish! METRO club member, Elizabeth Strong, is the local volunteer coordinator, but Liz shows METRO no mercy!

Wounded Warrior/Soldier Ride was established through the dedicated efforts of East Hampton’s own Chris Carney and Peter Honerkamp. The Soldier Ride program offers a variety of services to injured service members including the therapeutic physical benefits of cycling. Soldier Ride takes place all year in various locations throughout the United States and overseas. For the past several years the Hampton’s Ride has been dedicated to Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter, a Marine from Sag Harbor who was killed in Iraq in 2008. METRO was all hands on deck to cheer the Warriors from the USA, Europe, and the hundreds of participating riders.

Mission Accomplished! We secured the Farm, and were heading to the Amagansett Square for the post-ride dinner and concert for the Vets, and then… We heard he was in town!

As you know, Parrot Heads have many distinct characteristics, including the ability to phlock to the front of, well, anything. METRO was center-stage and ready for the great music of Nancy Atlas and her band, The Nancy Atlas Project, and then the opening act walked out on stage. Jimmy Buffett appeared to entertain the Warriors and we all shared the fun!

Jimmy rocked the Square with opening song, “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” but then paused when he spotted a few children selling chances to win tickets to his show at Jones Beach. He purchased, and donated, ‘5 for $20’.

The show continued with “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Five O’Clock Somewhere” — uh oh, broken string and borrowed Nancy Atlas’ guitar — “Smart Woman (In a Real Short Skirt),” “Jolly Mon,” “Fins,” “Margaritaville” and encore of “Brown Eyed Girl.”

Jimmy took time, at length, to thank the Warriors who were present (approximately 50) and remind everyone how important it is to support the Wounded Warrior/Soldier Ride program.

After “Fins,” Jimmy was presented with a well-deserved appreciation award for his support of the program throughout the years and recognized for hosting fishing trips on Long Island for the Warriors with his crew prior to the Rides, funding event dinners, and many other generosities.

Wounded Warrior/Soldier Ride is one of the METRO PHC’s favorite volunteer events. It is humbling to serve those who have served us. Another great Party With A Purpose in Amagansett! Fins Up!
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Jimmy Buffett showers followers with hits at New Orleans Jazz Fest 2015
Apr 29, 2015 - 2:16 AM - by Ryan C.

Barefoot bard Jimmy Buffett immediately charmed the Acura Stage audience at New Orleans Jazz Fest on Sunday (April 26) when he stepped to the microphone and absurdly identified himself as rapper Pitbull, who was actually appearing at the Congo Square Stage. Time and again during his two-hour performance, the 68-year old country/Caribbean singer delighted the crowd with references to the Crescent City, where he busked in the French Quarter 40 years ago.

During his recitation of the sand and sun anthem "Margaritaville," the best-selling author modified the lyrics to match the mire that spread out in front of him in the rain-soaked racetrack infield.

"Nibbling on sponge cake," he sang, "watching the sun bake, all of you at Jazz Fest covered in mud. Strumming my six-string, on my front porch swing, we're looking a lot better than when there's a flood."

Buffett has long cultivated a carefree persona, but the Pascagoula, Miss. native is anything but insouciant when it comes to his fans. Throughout the set, he handed out his hits -- "Changes in Latitudes," "Changes in Attitudes," "Come Monday," "Volcano," "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and more -- like lovingly wrapped gifts at the New Orleans Jazz Fest presented by Shell. He beamed with the applause that crested with the opening chords of every beloved melody. During "Fins" he led the crowd in a shark pantomime. During "Why Don't We Get Drunk and ..." his faithful fans sang along with the affably naughty refrain.

Bottleneck guitar maestro Sonny Landreth joined Buffett's Coral Reefer Band on three tunes, lending his trilling slide sound to the mix of steel drum, pedal steel guitar and trumpet.

The audience was dotted with Buffett devotees sporting shark fin hats or parrot accoutrement. A couple near the stage rose above the flock, having decked themselves out in head-to-toe parrot costumes made from brilliantly colored actual bird feathers. A cluster of fans near the centrally located sound tent had stenciled their arms with the number of times they'd seen Buffett live. The numbers ranged from single digits to 145.

The sun made occasional appearances in the milky sky, though the beach balls that bounded dreamily above the crowd remained streaked with residual muck. A beer vendor in a pink cap tunneled through the packed audience. A tattoo of the Mississippi River trailed along the suntanned shoulder blade of a young female Buffett fan.

The concert closed with the hard rock/hula "One Particular Harbor," but Buffett and company swiftly returned for an encore of "We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About" that segued into "Twist and Shout" and finally the good-time classic "Brown Eyed Girl."

Buffett followed his New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell set with a show at Preservation Hall's Jazz Fest Midnight Preserves series, a run of late-night concerts that take place each festival night and feature big-name performers from the Fair Grounds –- unannounced until they hit the venerable St. Peter Street stage –- in concert alongside members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. See photos and read more about that night.

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