niversity officials search for replacement showboat

[bold on]Erin Ghere[bold off][fm][bold on][bold off][bold on][bold off]
Staff Reporter[fm]

College of Liberal Arts officials are trying to come up with nearly $1 million to jump-start a comeback of the University’s Centennial Showboat.
The University has found another boat which, with restoration, could replace the Centennial Showboat for use by the theatre arts department, according to an update given to the Board of Regents on Thursday.
For 35 years, the showboat served University theater students as a training ground. But on Jan. 27, a fire burned it down to its hull.
The presentation by University Vice President Eric Kruse explored the feasibility of acquiring and renovating a replacement boat, which appears possible except for a large gap in funding.
With only about $2 million of University funding and insurance money, rebuilding the hull of the original showboat was deemed impossible several months ago. The University then began exploring the option of finding a replacement showboat.
The Southern Star, a retired casino boat docked in Morris, Ill., is one such possible replacement.
“A study to determine the feasibility of acquiring the Southern Star and renovating it to meet the programmatic needs of theatre arts is currently being completed,” Kruse’s report said.
The preliminary findings are hopeful, but show a $1 million funding gap.
The Southern Star – an all-welded steel vessel with four decks – was constructed in Dec. 1993, but has been nonoperational since 1995. The exterior and interior of the boat are in “good condition,” except for damage to the interior-deck finishes due to the removal of gaming and surveillance equipment, according to Kruse’s report.
The boat seems to be a useable facility with renovations, Kruse said. “It should work for the purpose.”
The only major problem lies in the cost to buy and renovate the boat, Kruse said.
The Star is on the market for $1 million, and preliminary estimates add another $2.2 million for renovation costs. Included in those costs is construction of an additional mooring at the Harriet Island dock to secure the boat, as the current dock can’t structurally support it.
Looking at the same $2 million they did to rebuild the current boat, University officials are nearly $1.2 million short.
Kruse said CLA Dean Steve Rosenstone is leading the effort to bridge the gap and allow the University to purchase the Star.
Rosenstone was unavailable for comment. Kruse said it will be one to three months before University officials will know if they are able to buy the Star and renovate it.

[italic on]Erin Ghere welcomes comments at [italic off][italic on][email protected][italic off]