EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Evansville’s efforts to attract vessels from the Ohio River to the former LST 325 dock at Inland Marina are progressing rapidly.
American Cruise Lines has expressed interest in adding the city to an itinerary as early as this year, according to the Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati-based BB Riverboats is openly talking about docking a small tour boat here that would be available to residents and organizations.
All of this information was shared at CVB’s board meeting on Thursday, where members voted to sign an agreement with the City of Evansville and Inland Marina regarding use of the dock.
The deal essentially makes CVB the controlling entity, said office attorney Mike Schpmeyer. And that makes CVB the go-to agency for negotiations with cruise lines.
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The LST previously controlled the wharf under a pact with the city and the inner marina. It needs some maintenance and painting, but is in good overall condition, according to the office.
Office CEO Alexis Berggren told the board in late April that cruise ships in Evansville seemed like a longer-term goal. But talks with cruise lines have moved faster than the bureau expected.
“We had been prepared for this process to take 18 to 24 months, but at least one of the cruise operators (American Cruise Lines) feels the situation here is turnkey enough that they want to start this year and see how everything is happening,” says Berggren. “If all goes well, and we expect it will, we try to make a deal with them.”
The Courier & Press left messages for American Cruise Lines on Friday.
Restaurants and attractions in Evansville would benefit from visiting these cruise lines, as they often do in Henderson, Kentucky. Docking a BB Riverboats vessel here, however, would open up even more possibilities.
This company would dock a tour boat inside the wharf, while larger cruise lines would stop outside.
BB Riverboats owner Alan Bernstein confirmed the company’s interest at a recent Vanderburgh County Council meeting, where funding was approved for dock repairs.
He told the board that Evansville had been “underserved” in the past by tour boats, and “there is a big opportunity here.”
“The Home Navy dock is where that would be viable,” he said. “I’m happy to deal with whoever we need to do to get this done.”
A tour boat is reportedly available for hire, and in other communities it is used for many types of events, including after-prom parties, office officials said.