The Chicago Tribune ran an interesting story on the declining number of boats moored in some of Chicago’s lakefront harbors.
Experts in the industry offer a few explanations for struggling harbors like Monroe and 31st Street in this post- recession era: An aging demographic of boaters, competition from other marinas, the time-intensive nature of the sport and the fact that many boat owners want slips — which allow boaters to park right at the dock — because they’re generally more convenient, if more expensive. Monroe Harbor only has moorings which require boaters to hail a tender out to their boats.
In 2007, there were 980 total moorings at Monroe Harbor and all of them were occupied, according to Westrec. With hundreds of moorings removed in recent years, there were 390 available at the start of July and 373 were snapped up.
Those in the local boating community say the sport is on the rebound. But the overall occupancy rate in Chicago harbors is still significantly lower than the mid 2000s. In 2007 Westrec told the Tribune the harbors were 99 percent occupied with 5,100 spaces. As of June, the occupancy rate was at 80 percent with 4,281 of the 5,339 spaces taken.
It’s surprising that even has Chicago is experiencing an in-city white collar residential and employment boom, boating is in decline.
CityLab also recently wrote about the declining Millennial interest in country clubs and golf. CityLab follows the trend of speaking of this this mostly in terms of Millennial high mindedness. But they lead with a more likely cause: not enough money. Millennials today are burdened with student loans and paying a high fraction of their salary for an apartment in the neighborhoods they desire. This makes it harder for them to afford club expenses, even for hip places catering to them. Even in New York City, there are probably more old line city clubs than there are new school places like SoHo House.
Obviously each new generation is going to have different consumer preferences than their predecessors, and this challenges established institutions to constantly reinvent themselves to stay relevant. But the comparative lack of available income resulting from real declining salaries, student loan debt, and high real estate costs is going to prove a structural challenge for people hoping to induce Millennials to open their wallets for what are at core luxury purchases.