Monday, October 09, 2006

Vallejo's battleship museum campaign continues

Battleship museum campaign continues

Navy's USS Iowa deadline extended

By CHRIS G. DENINA/Times-Herald staff writer

Article Launched:10/08/2006 09:45:44 AM PDT

A group trying to open a World War II battleship as a Mare Island museum has another month to get its application to the Navy.

Because of a summer power outage on the former USS Iowa, the group has been given until Oct. 31 to prove to the military it has lined up the cash to transform the ship into a floating museum.

San Francisco-based Historic Ships Memorial at Pacific Square is using the time to make a final campaign push, including continued fundraising for the estimated $18 million project.

Meanwhile, the Port of Stockton also is seeking to acquire the ship for a museum, but officials there estimate the project will cost millions more. Port officials working on the Iowa project couldn't immediately be reached for comment Friday.


For more information about a group's efforts to bring the USS Iowa to Vallejo as a floating museum, call (415) 905-5700. Or send checks payable to: Historic Ships Memorial at Pacific Square, PO Box 361, Vallejo, CA 94590.

Source: HSMPS

Merylin Wong, president of the group supporting a Vallejo home for the battleship, said the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard is a better fit than the Port of Stockton.

"Everything's here," Wong said. "It's not inland, 100 miles from the ocean."

The Iowa is a relatively short sail away, mothballed at the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet. The blackout created delays for group members trying to get on the boat to see how much maintenance the ship needs, Wong said.

She said her group is printing posters for stores, planning to run newspaper and television ads and attending events to collect petition signatures. She added she also may hold an open house inviting the public to hear more about her group's plans.

The Historic Ships group estimates the Iowa could draw as many as 400,000 visitors a year to Vallejo. The city wouldn't have to pay a dime, and may even get a cut of parking ticket sales, the group said.

The earliest the ship could berth in Vallejo may be September or October 2007, if the Navy approves their plans, Wong said.

During this weekend's Fleet Week events in San Francisco, Wong's group plans to seek petition signatures to add to the more than 4,000 already collected, mostly from Vallejo residents, she said.

The group also needs to confirm how much landlord Lennar Mare Island would charge the group to berth the ship at the old base, Wong said.

With two teams competing for the ship, Wong said she's trying to keep her side's information secret, including how much it's raised. She only said the $18 million goal has not been reached.

"We've identified a good number of sources with that ability to fund," Wong said. "I think given a sufficient amount of time it can be attained."

Navy officials will decide in coming months which side gets the ship.

Both Stockton and Vallejo have their advantages, said Stan Golovich of Benicia, former berthing master for Mare Island. In that job, he was responsible for ships' arrivals and departures.

In 25 years at Mare Island, Golovich said he doesn't recall any battleships - aside from one being built there - berthing at the shipyard. The strait isn't very deep and the water is brackish.

"Those are the points the navy considers when it assigns these vessels," Golovich said.

The Port of Stockton has deep fresh water, so a ship would be less prone to rusting there, he said. But as the first naval shipyard in the west, Mare Island should get the Iowa, Golovich said.

"I don't think the chances are very good, but absolutely sure I want to see it there," Golovich said.

- E-mail Chris G. Denina at or call 553-6835.

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