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Battleship Texas will leave San Jacinto Battleground for undetermined location
Photo of Brooke A. Lewis
Brooke A. Lewis May 29, 2019
For more than 70 years, visitors have toured the Battleship Texas near the site where its namesake state won a crucial battle in its fight for independence. But the rusting ship, which saw action in two world wars, will soon move to a location where it can attract more visitors and revenue.
Bruce Bramlett, the executive director of the Battleship Texas Foundation, confirmed on Wednesday that the battleship would move from the San Jacinto Battleground in East Harris County, where Texian troops defeated Mexican army forces in 1836. About 80,000 paid visitors per year visit the ship docked on the Houston Ship Channel at the battleground, generating about $1.2 million in revenue, Bramlett said.
“It's a losing proposition and frankly the state is tired of pouring money into it," said Bramlett. "It needs to be somewhere where it's going to track four or five times that many people.”
It is unclear where the battleship will go. Bramlett declined to speculate, but said the ship would go to a site that Houstonians could visit fairly easily. He said the foundation has some potential locations in mind and intends to move quickly.
“If it stays there, it's going to die there,” Bramlett said of the current site. “It just doesn't work financially. It hasn't worked in years.”
The decision to move the battleship follows action by state legislators aimed at saving it. SB 1511, which awaits Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature, will provide the battleship with a new caretaker, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and send it to Alabama temporarily for repairs. The vessel has continued to rust despite sporadic repair efforts spanning decades, and many believe it will sink unless it is moved to a dry berth.
Rep. John Cyrier, R-Lockhart, one of the sponsors of SB 1511, suggested recently that the battleship be moved to Galveston, which has a larger tourist industry and could provide more visitors and help pay for maintenance costs.
“I think everybody that looks at this, if they look at the numbers and look at the reasoning on bringing it to Galveston, I think they'll realize that's the best option to save this battleship,” said Cyrier.
Galveston City Manager Brian Maxwell said he spoke to Battleship Texas Foundation representatives about a year ago regarding the possibility of moving the ship to Galveston.
“It’s certainly feasible,” said Maxwell, adding that Seawolf Park, where the USS Cavalla submarine and USS Stewart destroyer are berthed, would be an “ideal location.”
The Parks and Wildlife Department said in a statement that based on passage of SB 1511, it would secure a 99-year partnership with a nonprofit to operate and maintain the battleship.
“The Battleship Texas Foundation will be the appropriate nonprofit partner and will submit a preservation plan to the Legislative Budget Board for their consideration and approval,” the statement said. “That plan will also dictate the foundation’s wishes for the ship’s ultimate berth location after repairs are made.”
The news comes as The San Jacinto Museum of History seeks donations after losing tens of thousands of dollars when the battleground and museum closed for more than 50 days during peak season. The closure was the result of a March fire at the nearby Intercontinental Terminals Company.
Larry Spasic, the museum president, said the group hopes to raise $500,000.
Each year, Spasic said, $70,000 to $85,000 is spent on the San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Renactment, which was to occur on April 13 but was canceled due to the closure. The two largest days of attendance are usually the day of the festival and Easter, but guests were not allowed in on either day. Spasic also noted that the ITC fire occurred during spring break, when families from other areas travel to the site.[/quote}
Thematically, I think Texas belongs at San Jacinto, but I can see how it's relatively isolated and really out of the way. Texas is in absolute dire need of being taken out of the water and having the hull rebuilt.
Interesting they are going to Alabama for repairs. I wonder who is doing the work. Austal?