- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A group of riverboat enthusiasts is trying to get the 1920s era paddlewheeler Delta Queen back on the Mississippi River.

Former Delta Queen Steamboat Co. executive Cornel Martin was in St. Louis this week seeking support and investment for his company, DQSC LLC, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (https://bit.ly/1rSIVCW ).

Martin said he is concerned the riverboat won’t survive another winter in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it served as a floating hotel until severe weather damaged it this past winter.

The riverboat’s supporters need nearly $10 million. They also need congressional approval for an exemption to a federal law that prohibits overnight cruises on wooden vessels.

If all goes as planned, the 258-foot boat with 88 cabins and room for 176 passengers would be available for cruises of between three and 10 days starting next summer. Prices would average about $350 a night for trips including various cities in the Mississippi River and Ohio River waterways. It would compete with the Memphis, Tennessee-based American Queen, which has 222 rooms and can carry more than 400 passengers.

The Delta Queen had been exempt from the Safety Life at Sea Act for 40 years, but in 2008 a House transportation committee blocked the exemption, calling the Delta Queen a fire hazard. That’s when it became a hotel.

Martin says he hopeful the group can get the exemption back. A bill allowing it through 2028 passed the House last year and is being considered in the Senate.

But first the group needs to get its financing in order. Martin would not say how close the group is to the $9.6 million it needs. The money will come from a combination of private investment and Small Business Administration loans.

The company is considering St. Louis for its home port and headquarters, which would reverse a trend of passenger steamers abandoning the city’s riverfront.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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