A legislative panel advanced a plan by the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum to lease out land for a new resort, which the museum hopes can pay for repairs to its deteriorating World War II ships.
The Joint Bond Review Committee gave its blessing Tuesday to a proposal which would develop 61 acres near the Mount Pleasant museum into a new resort and commercial complex. But the committee only agreed if a portion of those lease payments went towards the remainder of a $9 million loan the state gave the museum in 2009 to pay for repairs to an aging USS Laffey.
“That, plus operations, will be able to make this,” Patriots Point Development Authority Vice Chair Wayne Adams told the committee. “The next three years will be tight, because we’re trying to upgrade the museum, as well.”
Patriots Point has paid off only $1 million of the loan and has struggled to find the remaining balance since expected Navy financial assistance never occurred. The museum’s centerpiece USS Yorktown also needs more than $40 million in repairs during the coming years.
The agreement with developer Bennett Hospitality attempts to provide a new funding source for the museum in addition to its gate receipts and event revenues. Bennett hopes to create the Grand Patriot hotel at the site, along with a large amphitheater, apartments and officespace. Authority Chairman Ray Chandler said the agreement would bring roughly $3 million annually in lease payments once the resort is open after 2021.
But Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman was insistent that the museum be willing to dip into its other revenue sources if the project does not pan out. “We’ve had countless proposals made (since 2009),” he told Chandler. “I sort of like your proposal… but we’ve got to have some assurances that money’s going to be there.”
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 annual rent the deal would bring.
The plan must also be approved by the State Fiscal Accountability Authority at its next meeting.