ANNA MARIA – The new $6.8 million Anna Maria City Pier opened Friday morning at 8 a.m. when 6-year-old Sadie Agnelli swung open the gate at the foot of the pier.
The new pier is now open on a limited basis from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. For now, the pier will be closed Monday through Thursday. The weekday closures will allow time to complete any needed final touch-ups and will also provide the new pier tenant time to begin the interior buildouts of the city-owned restaurant and bait shop buildings.
Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy is currently engaged in lease negotiations with Ugly Grouper restaurant co-owner Mike Ross and General Manager Thad Treadwell. Murphy recently said he expects a proposed long-term lease for the restaurant and bait shop buildings to be presented to the city commission in July. Once a lease is finalized, the interior buildouts can commence. The restaurant and bait shop are expected to open later this year or early next year.
Sadie Agnelli is the daughter of Frank Agnelli, the Anna Maria contractor whose Mason Martin Builders built the new restaurant and bait shop buildings, and also the benches and tables that grace the new pier. Tampa-based i+iconSoutheast built the main pier structure that includes the pier walkway and the T-end platform.
The pier replacement project received significant funding assistance from Manatee County, the state of Florida and FEMA.
Speeler & Associates began demolishing the old pier in July 2018 and i+iconSoutheast drove the first pilings for the new pier in February 2019. The old City Pier closed in September 2017 due to damage sustained during Hurricane Irma. At the time, the aging pier was already in need of significant rehabilitation.
Before his daughter opened the gate, Frank Agnelli said, “I’m happy to see it finished. It looks really good and it feels good to be a part of the Island’s history.”
He and Sadie were then the first visitors to set foot on the new pier Friday morning.
Palmetto resident Alexander Barthalis was the first fisherman on the new pier.
“It feels great. I was waiting for this moment for almost three years. I’ve been coming here for the past 15 years and I was devastated when the hurricane damaged this. I hope I can come here for another 20 years,” he said.
Barthalis was joined at the T-end of the pier by 15-year-old Palmetto fisherman Donavan Dolan, 13-year-old Joseph Dolan and their dad, Daniel Dolan. Within minutes, Joseph Dolan caught a small red snapper and the mayor congratulated him for being the first to catch a fish on the new pier.
Standing nearby, Bradenton resident Jeff Higgins said, “I’m psyched. It’s been awhile. As I was walking out it almost didn’t feel like it had been three years. It feels normal coming back out on the pier.”
Anna Maria resident Bob Carter said, “This is an exciting day we’ve all been waiting for. To see this new pier as beautiful as it is and in the same footprint is like the old pier being brought back to life. Congratulations to the mayor, the commissioners and the people who were patient enough to let it be done.”
City Commission Chair Carol Carter said, “It’s a red-letter day for us. It’s been almost three years of anticipation. It’s a lovely up-to-date rendition of the old pier and it means a lot to the city, particularly the businesses. As the mayor has said, the pier is the hub of our city and it symbolizes our sense of community.”
Murphy has guided the pier replacement project every step of the way.
“I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to have this pier open. This has been such a long time coming. I look at all the hurdles we’ve been through to bring it to this point and I’m pleased that we are where we are,” he said.
When asked if he felt a sense of relief, the mayor said, “Yes, but there’s a few miles to go. We’ve got to get a restaurant out here and we’ve got to get the bait shop open. What I feel the best about is that the residents of our city can come out and enjoy this pier. And this will help the businesses on Pine Avenue and Gulf Drive. They can maybe breathe a sigh of relief now that Manatee County’s number one attraction is open again.”
“It exceeded my expectations. This is gorgeous. It’s authentic looking and it’s solid. The pier means a lot to the city – it’s a fishing pier and it’s also a community connector,” Commissioner Amy Tripp said.
Tripp praised the quality of work and attention to detail paid by all involved in the project.
Former Commissioner Doug Copeland said, “It’s worth every penny to have what we ended up with.”
“It feels amazing and there’s a huge sense of relief,” City Clerk LeAnne Addy said.
“It’s an exciting day for the city and all of Anna Maria Island. It’s an absolutely beautiful pier,” Deputy City Clerk Debbie Haynes said.
“I’m ecstatic. Everybody did just a great job and this is a momentous occasion,” Public Works Manager Dean Jones said.
“I think it turned out terrific and the bathrooms are like a luxury hotel,” Anna Maria resident Jack Brennan said.
Brian Blaine used to tend bar in the old pier bait shop and hopes to return when the new bait shop opens.
“It’s beautiful,” he said of the new pier. “I hope for great things and hopefully I’ll be an asset.”