- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

MADISON, Ind. (AP) - A group of six local residents hopes to purchase a historic showboat and bring it to Madison.

Jim Stark and Greg Ziesemer told the Jefferson County Council on Tuesday about plans to purchase the Majestic showboat. The boat has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is the last purpose-built showboat still afloat.

The 92-year-old fully equipped performing arts venue is currently owned by the city of Cincinnati.

The group requested $30,000 from the county’s Historic Preservation Fund to be put toward the $50,000 purchase price of the boat.

Stark and Ziesemer said the task force learned that Cincinnati wanted to sell the boat earlier this year.

Cincinnati Landmark Productions had rented the 233-seat boat for 23 years from the city before building a new performance venue on land and away from the river. The last performance on the showboat was held a little more than a year ago, The Madison Courier reported (https://bit.ly/1xVhtct ).

Cincinnati has been looking for a new home for the showboat since then, the presenters said.

“They’re eager to have it off their books,” Stark said.

And the local task force believes Madison would be a good home for the Majestic.

The showboat, which was launched in 1923, has undergone significant renovations over the years and has been well maintained, considering that it is almost 100 years old. The showboat had its hull replated, the deck was reinforced and steel beams were replaced to support the balcony and roof, the National Parks Service website said.

Seats were refurbished in 2005, and the boat was repainted in 2010.

The boat is no longer motorized and would not be moved once it was docked.

It’s “completely up to snuff,” Stark said. The showboat could open its doors for performances just as soon as it can find a place to dock with access to utilities.

The boat features modern HVAC and theatrical lighting systems, Stark and Ziesemer said, and the showboat had modern public restrooms. There’s also a kitchen and concession areas on the boat.

The Majestic already meets Americans With Disability requirements, they said.

The task force would hope to have shows on the boat most weekends, and the boat could be used as an additional attraction during local festivals, Ziesemer said.

Although organizers are requesting initial funds to get the project off the ground, task force members said they don’t expect to return every year for additional funding.

Stark said the task force hopes to form a public and private partnership with the boat operated by a nonprofit group should the purchase be made.

“We expect this thing to pay its way once it gets a following,” he said.

Plus, additional festivals could be planned with the showboat in mind, they said.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Ziesemer said.

County Council President Judy Smith said she could remember the boat docking in Madison for the summer shows.

“It is a unique thing for the community,” she said.

Council members asked several questions about the boat’s maintenance and upkeep, as well as the economic impact the boat might bring to the area. Those questions were answered, some with detailed spreadsheets in a packet given to the council by Stark and Ziesemer.

“It’s those types of things that we should use the money for,” Councilman Larry Wynn said.

Council members took the presentation and information under advisement.

Stark and Ziesemer said they expect to meet with the Jefferson County Commissioners during a meeting next week, as well as other potential grantors or partners for the project.

The task force has until the end of the month to make an offer on the showboat.

___

Information from: The Madison Courier, https://www.madisoncourier.com

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