Mayor Advances LST 325 Effort

LST 325 passes the Evansville riverfront in July 2003.
LST 325 passes the Evansville riverfront in July 2003.

Reporter: Ben Jackey

UPDATE, 9AM FRI:  Following his meeting with the LST 325 board Thursday afternoon, Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel says the city will be able to meet all of the 16 criteria required to be a permanent docking facility for the ship. "Obviously, the capital development fund is one area we could go for possible revenue to build a docking facility. The Convention and Visitor's Bureau is another area. Obviously, we want to see private donatons to support this effort."

A decision on the permanent home for LST 325 is expected in September.

EARLIER: Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel says the LST could be a good attraction for Evansville and the ship's captain says it's a natural fit. But there are some things that could sink the effort.

LST 325 captain Bob Jornlin wants the permanent home for his warship to be in the middle of all the action. "Pie in the sky situation, we would envision the LST being close to a lot of activity..whether it be restaurants or shops of all kinds."

But Inland Marina, where the ship docked during its visit in 2003, may be Evansville's only option. Barge channels run too close to the shore elsewhere, unless the Army Corps of Engineers decides otherwise. Mayor Weinzapfel would like to see the Corps change its mind. "Whether it's right in front of the museum, or whether it's closer to Aztar, I think those would both be good locations that are more conducive to all of our efforts in downtown Evansville."

It's one of many concerns Mayor Weinzapfel brings when he meets the LST board. Here's another: The local LST committee has said it needs public funds to build the $1.5 million dock. Weinzapfel says, "I am concerned whether it, in and of itself, as a stand alone entity is going to be enough to warrant the investment."

Jornlin says the investment will be worth it. "We're not gonna have three hour lines forever in Evansville, because people come and see the ship and they don't come back right away. However, when you have big convention in here, we could go back to more than a thousand people a day."

Mike Whicker with the local LST 325 committee agrees. "The ship has been here and shown what it could do. I would argue that the ship could stand on its own here in Evansville."

Jornlin hopes to add a museum as well, maybe one just a short walk away from downtown, in whichever city that may be. "We're gonna have a tough job. I can tell you that right now."

The group searching for a permanent base for LST 325 had their first meeting in Jeffersonville Wednesday, and will head to Peoria Friday.