GALVESTON

A decision about whether the battleship USS Texas moves to Galveston could depend on finding a suitable berth for the large vessel.

More than a month ago, Texas legislators committed $35 million from the state’s $11 billion Economic Stabilization Fund to refurbish the battleship, which was commissioned during World War I, saw action during World War II and has been berthed as a museum near the San Jacinto Monument in La Porte for decades.

The Battleship Texas Foundation, which maintains the ship, said it plans to haul the Texas to a dry dock for the work and to find a new place to tie up when it’s done.

Galveston came up early in talks about where the Texas might go, and city and foundation officials have had one informational meeting about the possibility of berthing it on the island, but that resulted in an impasse, officials said.

While the city suggested docking the ship at Seawolf Park on Pelican Island, where the museum ships USS Cavalla and USS Stewart are, the foundation was more interested in a spot on Galveston Island, City Manager Brian Maxwell said.

“We offered up Seawolf Park,” Maxwell said. “We thought it was a good fit. They resoundingly told us they did not want to go to Seawolf Park. They wanted to be downtown.”

Bruce Bramlett, executive director of the foundation, confirmed that Seawolf Park was not an option.

“We’re not interested in Seawolf Park,” Bramlett said.

While nothing has been finalized, the foundation hopes for the move to happen by the end of the year, Bramlett said.

A final decision about where to put the ship after it has been restored will depend on where the foundation can raise enough money to pay for continued maintenance, Bramlett said.

“Having a location is one thing,” he said. “Having a location to get the kind of attendance we need is another.”

The legislative action that committed $35 million to the repairs of the battleship also ended commitments by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to care for the ship, meaning the foundation will soon have to rely on its own revenue for maintenance.

At its meeting with Galveston officials, the foundation said it hoped for a berth on the Galveston side of the ship channel, which is more readily accessible and closer to other attractions than Seawolf Park.

City officials are keen on the idea of Seawolf Park because it’s the site the Galveston Naval Museum and is one of the few places along the Galveston Ship Channel that the city controls and isn’t already being used by the Port of Galveston. Seawolf Park is owned by the city, and operated by the Galveston Park Board of Trustees.

So far, there haven’t been any serious discussions about putting the battleship on the Port of Galveston property, officials said.

The port hadn’t officially been contacted by the Battleship Texas Foundation about leasing space at the public docks, Director Rodger Rees said. Any such proposal would need to be weighed carefully by the Wharves Board of Trustees, he said.

“There are many factors to consider with input from community stakeholders before a decision could be made,” Rees said.

Among other things, the port would have to consider maritime traffic and environmental issues, he said.

It would also have to factor in the potential revenue loss of committing valuable, port-owned land to the project, Rees said.

For their part, officials with the Battleship Texas Foundation think putting the ship in Galveston would have a positive economic benefit for Galveston County, they said. An economic analysis prepared by the foundation in 2015 estimates hosting the USS Texas would have a $9.1 million economic benefit, and employ as many as 48 people.

But the study didn’t factor in the costs of repairing the ship, or of what a city would have to spend to prepare a site for the ship and the thousands of visitors the foundation predicts the attraction would draw.

While local officials say there’s been little motion toward bringing the ship to the island, there have been signs of growing public interest in the idea.

This week, a petition began circulating through social media pages, calling for the ship to be moved to the island.

The petition was started by Charles Wiley, a retired Galveston police chief.

As of Friday, the petition had a few dozens signatures, and Wiley said the discussion about a public display of support for the ship had been mostly limited to conversations at local coffee clubs.

The petition doesn’t call for much specific action however, and Wiley said there are a lot of considerations city leaders would need to contend with while choosing a place for the ship. He thought a solution could still present itself.

“Your mind can just run amok,” he said. “Galveston is an island. You can literally put it anywhere around the island.”

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

Locations

(14) comments

Bill Cochrane

Another tourist attraction on Galveston Island? Seriously? One day the News runs a story about tourist traffic is so horrible and the next day folks are wanting more traffic. The traffic problem should be fixed first. Either widen 61st street or build another bridge across Offatts Bayou. As for the Battleship Texas, I think that Virginia Point would be an excellent place. Right across the Causeway. But that makes way to much sense.

Don Schlessinger

Thank you Bill.

Carlos Ponce

"commissioned during World War I" - USS Texas (BB-35) was commissioned on March 12, 1914 just prior to World War I which started June 28, 1914 when Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist, assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. The United States was officially neutral at the time but with the sinking of American merchant ships war was declared against German on April 6, 1917 three years after The USS Texas was commissioned. https://web.archive.org/web/20060905041123/http://www.hnsa.org/ships/texas.htm

Dan Freeman

While the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was the proximate cause of the war, the first declaration of war was by Austria-Hungary against Serbia on July 28, 1914.

Carlos Ponce

If you prefer the date July 28, 1914, Dan, that's fine. The USS Texas (BB-35) was still commissioned prior to WWI if you use that date.

Gary Miller

Discusing the Battle Ship Texas as if it belonged to Galveston is a mistake. It doesn't belong to the state. It wasn't built in Texas by Texans. Spending $35 million to repair 25K tons of junk steel isn't smart either.

Charles Wiley

Gary, that ship DOES belong to the state! It’s managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife in partnership with the Battleship Texas Foundation. Sooooo, I guess we won’t see you as a visitor when it does come to Galveston?

Caron Walior

The Battleship North Carolina is across the Cape Fear River in Wilmington and not accessible from the downtown waterfront (although it’s clearly visible). It attracts plenty of tourists. Seawolf Park does seem to make the most sense. Surely more people would visit it at Seawolf Park than where it is now in the Houston Ship Channel. I would love to see it come to Galveston.

Jack Reeves

I'll just dismiss Miller's comments as oblivion (in keeping with the guidelines by this fine publication), but, I doubt that she (Texas) is a pile of junk in the minds of those who served or whose family may have served in any conflict to which this Country has responded. In any case, Texas is a part of the lives of the greatest generation and deserves preservation. We save everything else in this town and thousands of interlopers have come to The Island just to purchase a house and prove that it deserves a plaque. The least we can do is save one symbol of the effort that gave us the right to slam one another in this forum.

Stephen Murphy

Bring it to Galveston and get Tilman to build a theme park around it. Put a giant Ferris wheel on the bow and water slides coming off the superstructure. On July 4th, they can shoot fireworks out of the ten 14" guns.

Charles Wiley

The first order of business is to ensure the ship comes to the island. To help with that effort go to https://www.thepetitionsite.com/884/783/738/move-the-uss-texas-to-galveston/ and sign the petition on-line.

George Gould

Got to have a bridge to Pelican Island before anything else can happen.

AJ LeBlanc

I understand the city’s point in recommending Seawolf Park. It would potentially bolster attendance at that location by significantly increasing the draw (if done correctly). Having said that, I can also understand the Foundation’s desire to berth the vessel downtown. If it was within walking distance of the cruise terminals it would be an easy major attraction that would likely draw high attendance. This could possibly divert some tourist dollars away from the Strand and the Elissa, but a savvy marketing campaign might be able to manage some of that. The weekly ebb and flow of cruise passengers is large and businesses within walking distance can readily capitalize on that. Farther away from the terminals - not so much. I think the Pleasure Pier is accessible by trolley (or Uber/Lyft) and some cruise passengers might take advantage of that. I imagine there is a tiny percentage of cruise passengers that actually venture out to Pelican Island. The Pleasure Pier – located on the Seawall with surrounding restaurants, etc. – is a significant enough draw on its own to lure tourist dollars across the causeway. Would the Battleship Texas at the Seawolf Park location (without much in amenities) have enough draw? It sounds like the Foundation might be weighing the starkness and isolation of Pelican Island versus the built in amenities and crowds of downtown.

Steve Fouga

That's how I read it, too. As a resident I'd rather see it at Seawolf, but it's understandable that the Foundation would want it downtown.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.