The Delta Queen Steamboat Co. has picked Kimmswick, Mo., a small town about 25 miles south of St. Louis, for its headquarters and homeport.
How soon the historic Delta Queen — now sitting at a private slip in Louisiana — will actually sail from there depends primarily on Congress, which must approve an exemption for the paddlewheeler to cruise again.
The company expects to move staff to the city within the next few months, said Cornel Martin, who with partners bought the Delta Queen in February for an undisclosed amount. “They have a building for us to use as a corporate headquarters basically for a couple of years rent free,” he said. And there are plans to build a dock to accommodate the vessel.
Martin said they talked with a number of other cities about homeport possibilities including St. Louis, Cincinnati and Baton Rouge, La. “The Kimmswick thing just seemed to fit. They really, really wanted us,” he said.
Indeed, said Mayor Philip Stang, “We’re very excited about it, and it’s very complementary to what we have here,” he said. The tourism website already has posted a picture of the Delta Queen.
He said construction would start “relatively soon” on a dock estimated to cost about $1.8 million that will provide “a good home for the Delta Queen and a good stopping off point for other boats.”
Senators from Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana introduced legislation (S. 1717) in July to exempt old vessels that operate on inland waters from fire hazard restrictions if the owners “make annual structural alterations to at least 10 percent of the areas of the vessels that are not constructed of fire-retardant materials.”
A similar bill that passed the House last year but not the Senate gave the historic steamboat a 15-year exemption to regulations that require passenger vessels for 50 or more be made of fire retardant materials. Built in 1926, the steel-hulled Delta Queen with its wood and steel superstructure had been kept alive with a series of exemptions. Both the current Senate and House (H.R.1248) bills are in committee.
The legislation is key to getting commercial financing for much of the estimated $5 million needed for restoration and renovation.
The 176-passenger boat stopped sailing in 2008 when Majestic America Line shut down.