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VOL. 126 | NO. 154 | Tuesday, August 09, 2011

American Queen Seals GASC Move to Memphis

By Bill Dries

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The sale of the American Queen to the Great American Steamboat Co. for $15.5 million has cleared federal maritime regulators and the CEO of the company said today the first cruise from the Memphis homeport will be in April.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and GASC CEO Jeff Krida made the formal announcement Monday, Aug. 8, with the new company restoring cruises on a river that now has no other riverboat making the journey as a commercial venture.

Krida said the massive boat will now undergo $5 million worth of renovations, of which 90 percent is mechanical.

The city of Memphis put up $9 million in financing for the boat’s purchase. The city money is an advance from a federal Housing and Urban Development loan fund to be repaid over a 10-year period. The city will get the money back from an $89 boarding fee every passenger pays not only when they board in Memphis but when they board in other cities up and down the Mississippi River. The revenue stream from the boarding fee will also pay for the completion of the Beale Street Landing project where The American Queen will dock.

Riverfront Development Corp. president Benny Lendermon said the landing is ready for the boat to dock now. The part not yet completed is a park atop the actual landing.

GASC will locate its corporate headquarters at One Commerce Square and has already been using the address on its website and other material prior to a marketing push that begins Sept. 15.

The company will create 589 jobs, and Wharton estimated its economic impact at $89.5 million.

Krida also confirmed that passengers on The American Queen will be staying the night before they depart Memphis in hotel rooms the company will book for them.

Krida said the bookings will mean an additional 7,000 to 10,000 hotel room nights a year in Memphis.

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