Lake 'X' Closes 26th March

Jon Fuller

Mar 12, 2004
Cruising area
South Coast
Boat name
Boat make
Phantom 28

Mercury Announces New X-Site Test Facility

Lake X and Placida Operations Integrated at Panama City, Fla., Site

-- A Mercury Marine Press Release --

FOND DU LAC, Wis. The sun will set on Mercury's Lake X operations for the final time March 26 when Mercury Marine leaves the legendary test center to open a new 8.4-acre, integrated research-and-development site on

Watson Bayou near Panama City. Lake X served as Mercury and Mercury Racing's premier proving grounds the past 47 years, providing confidentiality for the company's secret, and often industry-changing, test efforts.

Lake X has also provided a home base for Mercury Racing's offshore race support team. Race teams, OEM boat builders and dealers have valued Lake X because of its secluded location and access to Mercury Racing's on-site rigging and technical support.

The new facility at Watson Bayou, recently named X-Site will feature multiple in-water slips, as well as an office, laboratory and boat-rigging building. Former Lake X operations, including offshore race support, will be based there.

"Mercury has a rich history from its decades at Lake X, but we have simply outgrown it," said Fred Kiekhaefer, president of Mercury Racing and son of Mercury founder Carl Kiekhaefer. "As a kid, when I was driving endurance there, it seemed like hours to get around the lake. At today's boat speeds, it's seconds! This has become a limitation in the services we can provide. Since we could not stretch the lake, we needed a new X-Site."

X-Site is scheduled to open by April 14, though the exact date will depend on the progress of construction.

Mercury selected Watson Bayou near Panama City over 52 other potential sites based on criteria that included realistic boating conditions, available marine technical personnel and a degree of seclusion.

Watson Bayou also offers suitable calm and rough conditions in both saltwater and freshwater, which will allow the same facility and staff members to test everything from high-end offshore race boats to small outboard-powered tenders. Additionally, a combined testing facility adheres to the company's lean-thinking philosophy and migration toward increased integration.

Lake X Operations Manager Bill Harris will oversee Mercury Racing's customer support and offshore race activities at X-Site.

"Because of the high-speed capabilities of today's offshore race
boats, Mercury Racing has outgrown Lake X's usefulness," said Harris. "We look forward to the vast amount of water available to us in Panama City, along with the state-of-the-art building that will feature drive and engine-rebuilding, and our legendary rigging capabilities, once construction is complete."

Bill Nesslar, manager of Mercury's former saltwater test facility in
Placida, Fla., will oversee all Mercury production research-and-development testing at the new Panama City site. John Sherlock will oversee Mercury Racing's research-and-development testing.

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