New boat will provide new opportunities for programming, charters
LOUISVILLE — The Belle of Louisville is launching an exciting new era that will result in expanded opportunities for visitors and residents to experience a little bit of history on the Ohio River.
The Belle of Louisville operation is entering an agreement to acquire The Georgia Queen, a three-deck vessel with traditional riverboat styling. This new 565-passenger boat will replace the Spirit of Jefferson, a 260-passenger vessel that has served our community admirably but is in need of major restorative repairs that could cost substantially more than the boat’s appraised value.
The Georgia boat, which was built in 1985, can host a total of 565 passengers for casual gatherings or cocktail parties, or 260 passengers for seated lunch or dinner service on the two enclosed climate-controlled decks. A third deck has a roof and open-air seating. All three decks have restrooms, bars, and concession areas. The boat was built at Marine Builders in Utica, Indiana, and operated as a dinner excursion boat in Kansas City before moving to a similar operation in Savannah, Ga. Her Savannah owners acquired a larger boat for their operation in October of 2016 and put the Georgia Queen on the market at that time.
The Waterfront Development Corporation and Belle of Louisville staff have been in negotiations with the Georgia owner since December.
For the last several years, WDC and Belle staff have been keeping an eye out for a larger, newer boat to replace the aging Spirit of Jefferson. The larger vessel will allow more flexibility in cruise offerings and charters, adding the ability to offer larger cruises as well as more than one charter at a time, an opportunity that has been lacking on the smaller Spirit.
The Georgia Belle has been well-maintained and is in 100 percent compliance with U.S. Coast Guard requirements. The new boat, as with all modern-era vessels, is powered by two diesel engines. In addition, the vessel is equipped with two generators, HVAC, and other mechanical apparatus needed for safety and normal operation, as well as up-to-date electronic and navigational systems, including radar and GPS. True steam-powered vessels like the Belle of Louisville are rare; at 102 years old, Louisville’s Belle is a National Historic Landmark and the oldest authentic Mississippi-style steamboat in operation in the world.
The Georgia Queen will be purchased for $750,000 using $420,217 from capital reserves and $329,783 in proceeds from the Belle’s Centennial Celebration in 2014. The Spirit will be put up for sale after the acquisition of the new vessel is complete.