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Lauderdale show grander than ever

‘The world’s largest boat show’ opens Oct. 28, with 3 million square feet of space at six locations

The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is expected to make a big splash again this year as it continues to grow in size.

All the in-water space was sold out almost three months before the show, according to Kaye Pearson, president of Yachting Promotions. Pearson planned to add docks and booths at the Las Olas Marina, giving the Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 show 3 million square feet of space at six locations: Radisson Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Greater Fort Lauderdale-Broward County Convention Center, Marriott Portside Marina, Hyatt Pier 66 Hotel & Marina, Hall of Fame Marina, and Las Olas Marina.

Pearson says Fort Lauderdale is the world’s largest boat show, exceeding in size runner-up Dusseldorf in Germany. He expected to showcase $1.6 billion worth of boats, yachts, superyachts, electronics, engines and accessories.

“We continue to see a healthy marketplace,” Pearson says. “Our marketplace at this show is the world.” Many foreign visitors go to Fort Lauderdale for the show, many of them to shop the superyachts and walk the designer’s tent, where they can meet with superyacht builders and designers and high-end accessories manufacturers.

The Lauderdale show will display more than 200 superyachts — luxury yachts more than 80 feet — as well as sportfishing yachts, motoryachts, passagemakers, sailboats, inflatables, PWC, brokered yachts, and fishing, sport and high-performance boats.

Though boat sales slowed some this summer from a blistering pace last season, the prognosis for the show remains good, says marine lender Jim Coburn, senior vice president at National City Bank. Consumer interest rates edged up slightly after the Federal Reserve Board raised the federal funds rate a quarter percent at the end of June, but in late summer rates remained attractive in the 5-percent range. “We’re still seeing low rates,” says Coburn, and National was projecting consumer confidence to remain strong at least into 2005.

Preview Day, when prospective buyers can see the show without big crowds, is Oct. 28 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Regular show hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 29 to 31, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 1. Preview Day tickets are $30. Other days general admission is $16 for adults ($25 for a two-day pass, $60 for five days), $5 for children age 6 to 12, and free for children younger than 6. Water taxis and shuttles will run between show sites.