Battleship Texas BB35 is a New York-class battleship that has the distinction of having served in both World War I and World War II. The 104-year-old ship is facing possibly its toughest battle as it fights a two front war against time and budgetary constraints.
The aging battleship is currently closed to the public as it undergoes repairs. Corrosion has caused leaks in the hull of the last remaining WWI dreadnought. Officials have stated that they are pumping 300,000 gallons of water out of the hull every day.
The state of Texas had been paying for maintenance on the ship but it has announced that it will no longer do so after paying $35 million to have the ship floated to a shipyard to undergo the repairs.
This means that the ship will have to support itself based on admission fees. That would require 300,000 people to pay to visit it each year in order to fund its own maintenance costs. Currently, the ship is berthed by the San Jacinto Battle Monument in La Porte, Texas. That site does not get enough visitors to keep the ship afloat.
Galveston has emerged as a front runner to provide a home for the Texas. They have two locations that could take the battleship, though both have problems which need to be addressed before the ship could dock there. These findings are from a citizen-led committee’s report which provides recommendations on where the ship could be berthed.
Seawolf Park on Pelican Island and Pier 21 located on Galveston’s harbor are the two locations identified in the report.
Bruce Bramlett, executive director of the Battleship Texas Foundation, says that the ship needs to find a spot with higher visitation which would rule Seawolf Park out in his mind. “That would be a worse location that what we’re in,” he said.
Seawolf Park currently sees 80,000 visitors per year according to park managers for the Galveston. This is not nearly enough to support the Texas. But Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau Chief Tourism Officer, Michael Woody, believes that the number would rise with the Texas berthed there.
— USS Texas Foundation (@battleshiptx) July 14, 2017
Having the historic ship located in Seawolf Park, which already hosts the USS Cavalla and the USS Stewart, would provide opportunities for education programs, school trips, corporate events and even increase leisure traffic at the park.
Pier 21 has the benefit of being near downtown and cruise ship traffic. This would provide the necessary numbers to support the ship. But having the battleship docked there would exacerbate parking and crowding issues already being experienced at the pier.
Also, the berth at Pier 21 is 510 feet long but the Texas is 560 feet long. With budgetary constraints, the city may simply not be able to afford the work required to bring the Texas to that site.
The city officials have stated that they will require more information before deciding if they want to make a bid for hosting the Texas.
Representative Mayes Middleton is on the committee researching locations in Galveston says that the bottom line is whether Galveston has the number of visitors required to support the Texas. He says that since the ship needs 300,000 visitors each year and Galveston sees over 7 million tourists every year, the numbers aren’t a problem.
The committee is expecting to release the full report along with its recommendations this month.
Meanwhile, the Battleship Texas Foundation, which is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the Texas, is pushing for the ship to be placed in a dry berth. The constant contact with salt water has weakened the hull of the ship and caused many leaks.
Work on building the Texas began in 1910. After serving in both world wars, the Texas was placed under the care of the Battleship Texas Commission in 1947. The Texas became one of the first museum ships in the US. In 1983, leadership of the Texas was transferred to the Texas Park and Wildlife department. At that time, a survey showed that the watertight seal. The ship was closed to the public for nearly two years while repairs were made.
In 2010, a new leak led to the ship sinking 2-3 feet. In 2012, 30 new leaks were discovered. The ship was once again repaired and reopened to the public.
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The Battle Ship Commission would like to see the ship placed in a dry berth, out of the water. Then they could stop spending money on repairs. But getting the Texas out of the water will cost $40 million. The foundation is willing to raise part of the money but seeking assurance from the government that they will provide the rest.