Did you ever have one of those OMG moments, when you imagined something in your head and then finally got to see it and it wildly surpassed everything that you had pictured?

Last week, I had one of those exact OMG moments when I was lucky enough to attend the grand opening party for the new Stinger’s Waterfront restaurant down at the newly renovated Ridley Township Marina. The whole place is absolutely stunning!

I’ve gone to the marina for as long as I can remember, boat-watching with my children when they were young and patronizing some of the places that were there through the years, like the Ponderosa, Rookie’s River Room, Carson’s Dockside Grill and Key West once or twice. I even went out on boats from the marina’s launching docks a few times at the invitation of friends and relatives. To be honest, while it was Morrow’s Marina, the place was (yikes, should I dare say it?) rather dumpy. For a time, it looked like a mishmash of some really nice boats mixed in with all sorts of other boats, including for sale boats, plus campers and other vehicles, all situated in a vast, unpaved, unorganized junky parking lot, along the waterfront with uneven docks and, at one time, even a few occupied houseboats. Well, thankfully, this has all changed!

The former 14-acre, privately owned marina at the foot of South Swarthmore Avenue, only three-quarters of a mile from the entrance to the Delaware River, came on the market in 2002, and Ridley Township made the purchase, saving it from further development. Rumors were rampant that a developer was going to buy it and construct townhouses. Most residents were thrilled that the township would save it as open space, but some were not convinced that the township should spend the money to acquire a marina. The purchase was made during a time when taxes kept creeping up and some residents worried that the acquisition would end up raising taxes even more. If there are still any Doubting Thomases, they should take a trip down to see the marina now and they will, most likely, reverse their previous opposition.

Old dilapidated buildings on the site were demolished, and with the help of federal, state and Delaware County grants, other improvements were made at the marina, including an add-on of three additional acres with the purchase of Rookie’s River Room next door to the marina. It has been totally renovated with a new parking lot and renamed the Water’s Edge Banquet Hall with seating for 120 people. A public fishing pier is just outside the Water’s Edge.

The marina itself has been totally renovated with a paved lot, modern offices and a beautiful restaurant, leased to Stinger’s. Some local residents may already patronize Stinger’s Restaurant on Providence Road in the Primos section of Upper Darby. The new restaurant at the marina is named Stinger’s Waterfront. No longer a tavern-atmosphere restaurant as Key West was, the new Stingers boasts contemporary décor and menu, open seating for 50 in the main room, a private banquet-type room with its own terrace to accommodate 60 guests, two full-service bars, one with seating for 55 patrons in a room with an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling accordion doors overlooking the water that can be fully opened, leading to under-roof outdoor terrace seating with a full view of the river.

The larger bar was amazing, because it was so massive and eye-catching, constructed almost as a focal point of the room. There is also patio seating right along the water’s edge, where diners can enjoy their meals while viewing seagulls on the horizon and boaters launching and docking their boats. The marina office also has its quarters in a section of the new building with the unique cupola on the third level which can be accessed from a spiral staircase in a small room on the second floor. Improvements were also made to landscaping and lighting. The project cost about $6 million.

According to township commissioners, financing for the project came from a bond issue and funds put aside in the township’s capital reserve fund. The rent derived from 97 boat slips, dry storage for boats and recreational vehicles, and the fee for launching boats at the two public ramps, as well as the leasing of the restaurant, will generate ongoing income.

The design of the entire building was done well to include lots of windows and “classy” touches throughout. In fact, that’s the word I thought the entire time I was there: “classy.” Gone is the dumpy look of yesteryear (good riddance!) and in its long overdue place is a classy restaurant where area residents can feel proud to bring out-of-town guests, take the family for dinner on any given night or celebrate a special occasion.

Truthfully, when you’re at Stinger’s Waterfront, I found it relatively easy to fake myself out and get the same vibe as if I were dining near a bay or ocean. It’s a perfect place to visit if you miss the shore, can’t get to the shore or are “staycationing.” Anchors and other nautical accessories dot the walls and surfaces.

The marina is fully illuminated by LED lights, so the waterfront view is breathtaking at night, as well as in the day when the sun is shining. We all know how de-stressing and relaxing it is to be around water. That’s the ambience Stinger’s on the Waterfront creates.

I know people who still pine for the days of Walber’s on the Delaware. With a new waterfront family restaurant, there is no reason to still pine.

The night of the ribbon-cutting was a huge party because there was much to celebrate after many years of careful planning and challenges. Officials, dignitaries, the construction crew, the new staff, everyone who had a hand in making the project happen was there celebrating. The celebratory party was one for the books and was even capped off with fireworks from a barge on the water. Over and over, as I walked around, I heard the same expression, from countless guests, “This is just beautiful!” Ridley residents seemed especially proud to have this special waterfront restaurant and property right in their hometown. Proudly and boldly emblazoned underneath the cupola on the outside of the building are the words “Ridley Township Marina.”

I quietly checked out a menu, just curious about the pricing at Stinger’s. Nothing seemed extreme. Sharables like cheesesteak eggrolls, baked clams, steamed Maryland mussels and cajun seared tuna were $11 to $15. Salads like steak salad, wedge salad, tossed salad, and buratta salad ranged from $9 to $16. Dinner entrees were priced from about $12 upward, with nothing really all that expensive, so it would be a nice place to bring the whole family.

Honestly, I am going to have some out-of-state company this summer, and I will definitely head on back there to have dinner. The food that they served at the grand opening party was delicious and the staff was super-friendly, so I’m hoping this is consistent with their usual menu and service. There really aren’t that many restaurants only a few minutes from home where you can sit out on the water and enjoy a nice dinner while watching the sunset and a few boats gliding by. We can all finally feel proud of our waterfront, another great asset here in Delco! If you’re compiling a summer bucket list, you’d be wise to add a Stinger’s Waterfront experience to the lineup.

Kudos to the Ridley Township commissioners and all of our local and state officials who had the foresight to recognize how underutilized the waterfront “coastline” of Delaware County is. They jumped in and took the risk and challenge and ended up giving us all a beautiful new place to wine, dine and enjoy one more vibrant asset of Delaware County — not to mention another boost to our local economy! I wish Stinger’s Waterfront Restaurant and the “classy” newly renovated Ridley Township Marina a boatload of success! Anchors away, my friends!

Stinger’s Waterfront is at 401 S. Swarthmore Ave., Ridley Township. It is open year round, from 11 a.m., daily. For more information, call (484) 540-7868.

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