Navy Wants to Give Battleship to Norfolk

Monday, April 10, 2006
The Navy wants to donate the retired World War II-era battleship USS Wisconsin to Norfolk more quickly than officials had expected. The Navy requires the city to submit a letter of intent by May 27, and a completed business plan for operating the Wisconsin by Sept. 30. The Navy was given authorization to donate the Wisconsin in December, but city officials did not expect to receive word on that donation until later this year. City officials are studying how to take over operation of the Wisconsin, which is berthed downtown on the Elizabeth River, next to the Nauticus maritime science and technology center. The battleship would be operated by the National Maritime Center Board, which oversees Nauticus and the Wisconsin. The deck of the Wisconsin has been open to the public, for free, since April 2001. It draws 500,000 visitors per year. The ship's interior, with its sensitive electronic systems, is off limits. It is being preserved in case the ship is recalled to active duty during a national emergency. When the city takes control of the ship, it would begin charging admission and would expect to open some compartments below deck. Estimates on how much private money is needed to open these areas run as high as $10m. The Federal Register notice describes requirements for the city to acquire the Wisconsin, including a resolution from the City Council; evidence of community support, such as letters of endorsement from adjacent communities; a demonstration of how the location of the ship will encourage public visitation and tourism; and a business plan that includes fundraising information and tourism revenue projections. The Navy also wants detailed information on maintenance of the vessel, including underwater hull inspections, a preservation schedule and periodic dry-docking. (Source: Daily Press)
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