Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Plan Advances to Bring Famed Battleship to Los Angeles

Efforts to bring the famed World War II battleship USS Iowa continued to gain steam last week.

Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commissioners heard additional details of the plan to make the warship a floating museum at the port and the results of an economic study on the viability of the ship as an attraction.

The economic feasibility study was conducted by outside consultant AECOM. Staff from the firm presented the port commission with its findings on Nov. 4.

The study compared six existing battleship attractions nationwide and noted an average yearly attendance of about 200,000 visitors at each. These five-year averages ranged from an average annual high of 393,000 visitors to the USS Missouri docked at Pearl Harbor to an annual average low of 98,000 visitors to the USS Massachusetts located at Fall River, Mass.

The AECOM analysis 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."

The current plan calls for docking the battleship at Berth 87 near the port's main cruise terminal.

The Los Angeles City Council in September backed a plan by the non-profit Pacific Battleship Center to bring the World War II battleship USS Iowa to the Port of Los Angeles.

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.

The US Navy, which determined earlier this year that another proposal by a group seeking to locate the warship in the Bay Area fell short, reopened bids for hopefuls wishing to acquire the USS Iowa.

In August, Los Angeles port officials began a study of the proposal and cost benefit analysis of the proposal seeking to bring the vessel to the port.

Approval of a 10-year lease from the Los Angeles port is needed before PBC can submit an application to the Navy to receive the USS Iowa. The Navy deadline for applications is November 24.

The port commission is expected to vote on approving the plan before the Nov. 24 US Navy deadline.