Evansville could see Ohio River cruises, city seeks to rehabilitate wharf

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Not a near-term possibility, but local officials say Evansville could be added to cruise line itineraries on the Ohio River if ships have a place to dock.

The city and the Convention & Visitors Bureau want to rehabilitate the old LST 325 pier at Inland Marina for this purpose. City-owned and built in 2005, the wharf has not been used since the LST moved to downtown Evansville two years ago.

It needs some work.

“Since the departure of the LST, maintenance has been deferred,” said Alexis Berggren, CEO of the visitors office. “We’re talking about ballast replacements, new coats of paint, the hinges need to be greased. Nothing too bad, but it’s just some attention that needs to be given to make it nice and useful.”

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The Visitors Bureau Board voted on Thursday to send Vanderburgh County Council a request for $60,000 to cover maintenance work, other wharf expenses and fresh promotional materials to show companies cruising.

The $60,000 would come from hotel room tax revenue, which is used to attract tourism businesses to Evansville.

Berggren told the office of the Visitors Bureau on Thursday that American Queen Voyages, American Cruise Lines and BB Riverboats are operating cruises on the Ohio River and may add Evansville to their list of stops.

Berggren said Evansville has several attractions to offer riverboat cruises, and businesses are showing interest in coming here. Some Ohio River cruises already stop in Henderson, Kentucky.

Riverboat routes are usually set 2-3 years in advance, but Berggren said rehabilitating the wharf is a necessary step for Evansville to eventually land there.

“I wouldn’t ask (for appropriation) if I didn’t think it was a real possibility with real economic impact,” Berggren said.

She said the visitors bureau would strongly encourage the arrival of cruise ships, so residents can check them out and consider taking cruises themselves one day.

Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Visitors’ Bureau, Joey Kiefer, said funding for wharf maintenance allows the city to negotiate with cruise lines and “take that process one step further.”

The city government of Evansville has also been involved in talks with river boat companies, but let the visitors bureau take the lead in luring them here, Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer said.

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