The recently announced alliance between Baja Marine and Freedom Boat Club, two major players in the U.S. boating industry, promises to open new windows of opportunity for both organizations. But in the end, it will be consumers in the recreational boating marketplace who will benefit the most.
Freedom Boat Club (FBC), the nation’s oldest and largest boating club, operates in more than 80 locations across the U.S. And Baja Marine, the parent company of Donzi, Baja, Fountain and Pro-Line Boats, designs and builds all four of its high-quality boat brands at its 250,000-square-foot waterfront facility in North Carolina.
In this first-of-its-kind alliance, Baja Marine will provide boats to FBC. In addition, Baja Marine’s affiliate -- Liberty Marine Group – has gained exclusive rights to operate FBC franchises throughout the state of New Jersey and in other select areas.
“Our group is very excited about opening a number of Freedom Boat Club locations in New Jersey,” said Bill Gates, President of Liberty Marine Group. “We plan to have our first location in the Point Pleasant, N. J., area up and operating by June.”
Gates, a former long-time resident of the Garden State, added: “I have been an avid New Jersey boater, from Cape May to the Manasquan Inlet, for over 25 years, including owning and operating a marina in Barnegat for most of the ‘90’s, and the Freedom Boat Club model is exactly what this area needs to bring first-time and former boating enthusiasts to the Jersey shore.”
Freedom Boat Club, headquartered in Venice, Fla., began operations in 1989, with the promise of offering members an affordable, hassle-free alternative to boat ownership. FBC has been expanding rapidly in recent years, nearly doubling its number of locations in the past five years alone. John Giglio, CEO of Freedom Boat Club, believes the alliance with Baja Marine marks a new milestone in his company’s growth.
“This long-term arrangement is not only a great thing for Freedom Boat Club and Baja Marine, but for the entire marine industry,” said Giglio. “This is the first time a boat manufacturer will be joining our FBC network. And this alliance allows us to provide our members with access to a great brand of boats.
“The bottom line: There will be more people exposed to boating and more people who fall in love with the boating lifestyle.”
Officials of Baja Marine are also enthusiastic about the long-term possibilities in this new relationship.
“We did our research,” said Johnny Walker, CEO of Baja Marine. “The more we learned about the Freedom Boat Club, the more we liked their people and their operation. They clearly understand today’s market and what it takes to get thousands of people into boats. We are pleased to know that Pro-Line and Baja boats will have exposure to an expanding group of people.”
For long-time advocates of FBC, one of the most appealing aspects of membership is all the options is affords. FBC members not only have a choice of more than 800 well-maintained, late-model boats at more than 80 locations but avoid the typical frustrations associated with boat ownership: maintenance, repair, cleaning, slip rental, storage, insurance, winterization, towing trailers, etc.
“We are excited by the possibilities this new relationship opens up for us and what it means for the Freedom Boat Club brand,” Giglio said. “This relationship is only going to help the marine industry on the whole and to help grow boating overall.
“In the end, everyone wins.”