Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Suisun to Negotiate for Entertainment Boat

Suisun to Negotiate for Entertainment Boat
By Barry Eberling

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City may finally see its entertainment ship come in.

The City Council on Tuesday voted to negotiate with Sacramento Steam Navigation Inc. to run an entertainment boat, an enterprise the city has long coveted. The boat is to be docked initially at the city marina visitors dock and give tours of the region's waterways.

"I think you'll see this vessel filling up with passengers all summer," said Capt. Daniel Thiemann of Sacramento Steam Navigation.

Suisun City officials want an entertainment boat that attracts people to the city, people who also spend money at local shops.

"I would like to see you be very successful, because your success is our success," City Councilman Sam Derting told Thiemann.

The city and Sacramento Steam Navigation Inc. are to negotiate for up to 60 days.

Suisun City already has a taste of what might come. Sacramento Steam Navigation brought its 45-foot-long California Sunset boat to the marina for the city's Fourth of July celebration and offered rides. The boat, which holds 98 passengers, is still there on a trial basis.

"It's probably is, in my opinion, the most viable attraction in Suisun City at this time," Thiemann said.

The Rancho Cordova-based company proposes to run regularly scheduled tours, special charter group tours, school trips, theme events and trips with live music. And that could be just for starters.

At some point, the company could build a new boat to become a floating card room. This boat would hold 300 people. The venture would target high-stakes players and would need polish and amenities, city building official Daniel Kasperson said. If successful, it could generate several hundred-thousand dollars annually for the city, he said.

But the City Council balked at giving Sacramento Steam Navigation the right to negotiate for a card gaming boat at a latter date. Mayor Jim Spering said that would handcuff future councils. Council members agreed that's another issue for another day.

City Councilwoman Jane Day said that when the city considers a card gaming boat, it should seek every offer.

"I really think there's a wealth of money there," Day said.

City Councilman Pete Sanchez - set to become mayor next month - said he will not support an entertainment boat with card gambling.

Suisun City residents in 1995 approved riverboat card gambling by the razor-thin margin of five votes. But the city failed to attract a gambling boat.

Majestic Ventures of Texas also proposed bringing an entertainment boat to Suisun City. It offered to build a new paddle boat and charter it for wedding receptions and other occasions.

But Majestic Ventures wanted to charge the city a flat monthly fee and let the city market and sell tickets. The city could then keep the profits above the monthly fee or suffer the losses if revenues fell short.

Sacramento Steam Navigation proposes to pay the city a minimum fee or a percentage of the gross. The city would have no financial risk.

After weighing the two offers, city staff recommended and the council went with Sacramento Steam Navigation.

Now Suisun City and Sacramento Steam Navigation will try to hammer out the details of the fee. Other issues include whether the company at some point would build a new dock and how the city might help with advertising and marketing.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

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