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Jimmy Buffett company part of plan to ‘enhance’ Lanier Islands resort
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LLI Management Co. board chairman Virgil Williams speaks Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, to the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority about future plans at the Lanier Islands resort in South Hall. - photo by Jeff Gill

Margaritaville is coming to Lanier Islands resort in South Hall.

A company co-owned by music icon Jimmy Buffett and Safe Harbor Development of Knoxville, Tenn., are teaming up to take over operations of LanierWorld — which includes the beach and water park — and manage special events at the 1,500-acre resort.

The Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority voted Tuesday morning to sublease the operations to Safe Harbor and Margaritaville Holdings.

Lanier Islands resort

Where: 7000 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford

More info: or 770-945-8787

LLI Management Co., owned by the Virgil Williams family, will keep the primary lease on the resort, handling the hospitality side of the resort, such as Legacy Lodge and Conference Center, and “development of the balance of the islands,” Williams said.

“The Williams family is going to stay deeply involved,” he told the authority, meeting at Legacy Lodge. “We’ll be here and you can count on us.”

Darby Campbell, Safe Harbor owner and president, said the companies’ goal is to take the resort “and enhance it. The bones are here.”

“Our goal is to make Lanier Islands a year-round resort,” he said.

Safe Harbor will operate the marinas and campgrounds at Lanier Islands.

The group will also manage the destination’s special events programming, including the popular annual Magical Nights of Lights, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary.

According to a press release, other short-term improvements will include development of an all-new RV park, as well as the addition of new wet and dry slips at the resort’s primary marina.

“The money will start flowing immediately,” Campbell said. “This year, you will see changes.”

Employees, meanwhile, shouldn’t be affected by the changes.

Safe Harbor is working closely with Williams family “to ensure a seamless transition and that we collectively retain the many wonderful, talented team members who are here at Lanier Islands,” Campbell said in a statement.

“As work begins to ramp up, we will look into hiring additional team members who are just as passionate about creating memorable guest experiences as we are.”

The Williams family has operated the resort since 2005, investing millions of dollars from the start, with infrastructure improvements and renovations at Legacy Lodge. Also, the old PineIsle resort was torn down.

“Everything basically had to be replaced,” Williams said in an interview after the authority meeting. “It was all tired.”

Otherwise, from the outset, the family was looking for “experienced partners of various types.”

“That would have happened much sooner had the economy and conditions of the marketplace been normal,” he said. “By the time we got the infrastructure in … the economy turned south and made it difficult for us to find partners.”

Campbell praised the Williams family for its efforts.

“With (the family) at the helm, Lanier Islands has thrived as a fun, accessible destination for families, couples and groups,” he said.

“We see huge potential working with Margaritaville to build upon what has been created here, while introducing new attractions, amenities, services and events that truly elevate the destination.”