Officials at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum hope a new real estate deal can provide money for badly-needed repairs for an aging World War II aircraft carrier, but South Carolina lawmakers first want assurances the Mount Pleasant museum will repay an eight-year-old loan.
The Joint Bond Review Committee last week signed off on a plan that would allow a developer to lease land next to Patriots Point for the next 100 years, but only if the museum submits a repayment schedule for $8.7 million it still owes the state. The state provided the initial $9.2 million loan in 2009 to repair the destroyer U.S.S. Laffey, which was in danger of sinking at its berth. However Patriots Point has struggled to come up with a payment plan since expected Navy financial assistance never occurred. And the museum’s centerpiece U.S.S. Yorktown needs more than $40 million in repairs during the coming years.
“How are we to expect Patriots Point to live up to your commitment?” JBRC Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, asked museum board members last week.
Patriots Point hopes to remain self-sufficient in its future maintenance for the Yorktown and Laffey, but the plan hinges on the 100-year lease and the estimated $3 million in annual rent the deal would bring. Developer Mike Bennett hopes to build the Grand Patriot resort, hotels, restaurants, stores and even an amphitheater at the site.
State Sen. Republican Sen. Paul Campbell said the museum may not be able to find a funding source without such real estate ventures. “Worst case for the state would be for those vessels’ maintenance to fall onto (the state government),” he said. “We own them anyway because it is a state facility. But I would not like for it to come out of the state’s budget to have to maintain those vessels. This is about as good a solution as we could come up with.”
The lease must also be approved by the State Fiscal Accountability Authority once Patriots Point crafts a repayment schedule.