Showboat renovation prepares to set sail

by Nathan Whalen

Despite delays resulting from communication problems with contractors and the city of St. Paul, the University is negotiating contracts with construction firms to renovate the Centennial Showboat.
The showboat has been a part of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance since 1958 when the boat, which was called the General John Newton, was donated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
It was converted into a floating theater that year. The showboat has produced more than 50 productions.
The department stopped performing on the showboat in 1993 when it was deemed unsafe. It is currently being stored at Harriet Island in St. Paul.
“We are in a holding pattern before we can work to the next step,” said Tom Trow, director of community and cultural affairs for the College of Liberal Arts.
The University was able to take bids for the renovation after the Board of Regents approved a $358,000 increase in the its 2000 budget, raising the total budget for the project to $2.56 million.
Trow said they already had the money but just needed permission to use it.
Trow hopes to award contracts within the next two weeks. He has been coordinating pieces of the project between the University and St. Paul.
Although the status of the showboat is in limbo, other groups have started plans based on its renovation.
The city began construction of a facility to accommodate the showboat, including a ticket booth and restrooms.
“We could not have gone forward without help from St. Paul,” Trow said. The city has put up the money for the facility and saved the University thousands of dollars.
The theatre arts department has already started plans for a production of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” said Lance Brockman, chairman of theatre arts.
A director for the first performance, Michael Harvey, has been appointed. Harvey is a University alumnus who teaches at San Diego State University.
Officials are waiting for the renovation to begin before completing other aspects of the show, Brockman said.
Brockman hopes to have the first performance by July 4, 2000.
The renovation was delayed because St. Paul officials were reluctant to undertake their part.
The renovation hit another snag when the contractor asked to withdraw its bid because of an error. When the error was corrected, the bid turned out to be over budget, said Nancy Rudstrum, the owners’ representative for the University.
Rudstrum is responsible for ensuring that the project stays within the budget and on schedule for the University.
Officials had the project redesigned and wanted to make sure St. Paul was able to perform the construction.

Nathan Whalen covers facilities and construction and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3237.