Friday, November 19, 2010

Los Angeles Port Approves Plan to Acquire USS Iowa

The Port of Los Angeles may be getting a new tenant – one that boasts quite a war record.

The governing board for the Port of Los Angeles on Thursday approved supporting a non-profit group's plan to acquire the famed World War II-era battleship USS Iowa from the US Navy and ensconce the warship at the port as a floating museum.

Voting unanimously to support the acquisition efforts of the non-profit Pacific Battleship Center, the port commission also approved the use of Berth 87 near the port's main cruise terminal as the future home for the battleship. The Los Angeles City Council backed the PBC plan in September.

The port commission approval of the plan was a critical and required step before PBC could officially submit an application to the Navy to receive the USS Iowa. The Navy deadline for applications is November 24.

“Los Angeles is the perfect place for this majestic battleship,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “Docking the USS Iowa at the Port of Los Angeles would be a reminder to visitors of the vital role that the port has played for the United States Navy during the 20th Century and would serve as a poignant monument to the sacrifices of the brave Navy men and women who have served our country.”

The battleship, which remains in the Navy inventory in "on hold" status as part of a government program that donates vessels to museum groups, saw service in World War II, Korea, and served again as part of the US Navy's "big stick" policy from 1984 to 1989. It is the last remaining battleship in the world that has not been permanently placed as a floating museum.

"We’re glad to be a part of this historic effort to find a permanent and appropriate home for the USS Iowa,” said Harbor Commission President Cindy Miscikowski. “While there are still issues that need to be addressed, the Harbor Commission’s action today makes it clear that we are committed to assisting the Pacific Battleship Center make this vision a reality.”

An economic feasibility study conducted by outside consultant AECOM estimated that attendance to the USS Iowa at the Port of Los Angeles would range between a low of 137,000 visitors a year to a high of 236,000 visitors a year, with a median of roughly 190,000 visitors a year from 2014 on. The analysis estimated that Southern California residents would make up roughly two-thirds of all visitors and the remaining third would be outside visitors.

However, the AECOM analysis estimated that even with these attendance numbers, the USS Iowa as an attraction would run a projected deficit of about $2.7 million a year. AECOM staff said this deficit would have to be addressed by other outside revenue such as fund raising, government support or philanthropic donations.

AECOM staff pointed out that the USS Iowa, as an attraction at the port, would have an earned income of just under 50 percent of its annual budget – a figure AECOM staff called "in line with other cultural attractions."

If the warship does come to Los Angeles, the port – while incurring some costs due to required shifting of cruise vessels – will not be providing money for the setup, operation and maintenance of the USS Iowa. These costs will be borne by the PBC.