Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SoCal Legislators Seek Resolution Urging USS Iowa to Los Angeles Port

A state resolution introduced by two Southern California state legislators is urging the United States Navy to transfer the famed World War II-era battleship USS Iowa to a group seeking to turn the warship into a floating museum at the Port of Los Angeles.

While the resolution is non-binding, it could help persuade the US Navy to support the Los Angeles plan. The resolution, AJR 8, was introduced by state Assembly members Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, and Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.

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.

Applications for the USS Iowa were submitted to the US Navy in late November 2010. Two groups are currently vying for the battleship, one in Los Angeles and one that is seeking to bring the vessel to Vallejo in the Bay Area.

In November 2010, the governing board for the Port of Los Angeles approved supporting a plan by the non-profit Pacific Battleship Center to acquire the battleship and ensconce the warship at the port as a floating museum.

Voting unanimously to support the PBC acquisition efforts, 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 2010.

The resolution, which highlights the major points of the pro-Los Angeles plan, also states that the plan is supported by the port-area community, including the San Pedro-area neighborhood councils, San Pedro businesses, the City of Los Angeles, the Port of Los Angeles, as well as the past four governors of the state of Iowa.

AJR 8 concludes by stating: "...the Legislature respectfully memorializes the United States Navy to approve the application submitted by the Pacific Battleship Center to house the USS Iowa at the Port of Los Angeles."

The resolution is now in the Assembly's Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media.

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.