America’s oldest sea port will have the newest recreational boating centre by spring of 2020 following unanimous approval this week to borrow up to US$1.6m to develop such a centre and improve boat maintenance facilities in a renovated harbormaster’s building.

The Gloucester, Massachusetts, City Council, gave the green light to the project, which will provide restroom and shower facilities, a laundry and other land-based services as well as transient docking.

The loan authorisation will enable the city to cover the upfront cost of the proposal, while seeking a US$1m grant from the state's Seaport Economic Council that would reimburse the city for much of these costs.

Harbormaster T J Ciarametaro told the Gloucester Daily Times that the city expects to hear word on its state grant application by November, then will advance to the design phase of the project. “I’d like to see shovels in the ground in October 2019," he said, with a potential opening to follow in the spring of 2020.

Community development director Jill Cahill cited statistics showing the impact that recreational boaters can bring to communities. She said figures show that more than 20,000 boats grace Gloucester's waters each year as it is, while visiting boaters spend an average of $300 per night in the city.

She also noted that recreational boating has become a $115bn a year business nationally. “We’d like to see Gloucester get our fair share of that,” she said.

Councilor Steve LeBlanc, himself a recreational boater, said he and other city officials are aware the city has some catching up to do in welcoming seafaring visitors.

“I’ve had people tell me that Gloucester has often been passed over [by visiting boaters] because we don’t have the facilities,” he said. “Yes, we have marinas, but most of the marinas are full in the summertime. This is the kind of facility that we need.”