Terms are being finalized
between River Mill Resort developer Bob Przewlocki and Ambassadors
International Inc. in the purchase of the Mississippi Queen. Przewlocki
wants to bring the steamboat to Madison, where he would permanently dock
it in front of his development at the former Meese building on Vaughn
RoundAbout first reported on the deal in the January edition. Since that
time, progress has been made toward finalizing the sale, according to
Przewlocki and his business partner and on-site property manager David
Landau. The developers plan to operate the vessel as a floating hotel,
complete with two restaurants and five bars. The steamboat also features
a banquet facility, theater, swimming pool and spa.
They are near to signing an agreement with Jones Lang Lasalle, an international
financial and professional services firm that specializes in real estate
services and investment management. The company also has a hotel management
A JLL representative traveled to Madison in mid-January to meet with the
developers and tour the River Mill Resort project as part of the ongoing
negotiations. Should a deal be struck, JLL would manage all aspects of
the resort and the Mississippi Queen, Landau said. That would include
negotiating and financing the purchase of the Queen, as well as attracting
and managing a hotel chain and restaurateurs to operate inside the development
and on board the boat.
Mississippi Queen would provide
the community with hotel rooms,
restaurants and entertainment space.
We are very excited about having JLL become
a part of this project because it will elevate us to a higher level and
move the project along more quickly, Landau said. He added that
JLLs involvement should help re-assure local residents who have
expressed doubts about the project coming to fruition.
Landau cited the January announcement of the Delta Queen going to Chattanooga,
Tenn., to operate there as a floating boutique hotel as an example that
the Madison venture with the Mississippi Queen is do-able. A private businessman
has chartered the Delta Queen while its owner, Ambassadors International
Inc., tries to find a buyer. The boat will be moored at a city dock, where
it will offer live music and group tours in addition to hotel rooms.
It just goes to show what can happen when you think outside the
box and ignore all the negativity that comes when you try to do something
big like this, Landau said. We are staying focused on the
project, despite the challenges.
They had initially hoped to have the boat on the riverfront in time for
the citys Bicentennial celebration in June. The Mississippi Queen,
the worlds second largest steamboat behind the American Queen, was
built in 1976 for the American Bicentennial. Landau says that while the
boat may indeed arrive in time for this summers festivities, it
is unlikely to be open as a hotel or restaurant by then.
There are a lot of project milestones that need to be met,
said Corey Murphy, executive director of the Economic Development Partners
of Jefferson County. For example, working with the Army Corps of
Engineers to obtain the necessary permits. But these milestones shouldnt
be a road block; its just a process that anyone would have to go
through when you are dealing with the river. I prefer to look on the positive
side of things.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the river system with strict
guidelines. Permits would have to be applied and obtained to dock the
boat permanently on the river and to build a platform for guests to enter
the boat, officials said.
Other permitting would likely have to be completed with other state and
federal environmental agencies, such as the Indiana Department of Environmental
Management, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Kentucky Department
of Fish and Wildlife, and perhaps even the U.S. Coast Guard.
Its a long tedious process but it can be done, said
Steve Huffman, who went down that road in 2000 when obtaining the necessary
permits to dock his towboat, the Barbara H, formerly the Donald B., near
his home in nearby Lamb, Ind. It took him eight months of permitting,
12 tons of concrete, a 5,000-pound anchor and a 6,000-pound pipe to moor
the Barbara H. You would have to multiply that by five or six for
the MQ, he said.
The Barbara H is only 100x19 feet in size, compared to the Mississippi
Queen, which measures 382x68 feet. The towboat can house only a few people
and was built in 1923 for Standard Oil Co. to move barges. Huffman and
his wife, Barbara, have used it as an attraction for school groups and
to participate in regional river festivals in Cincinnati, Frankfort, Ky.,
Warsaw, Ky. and Vevay, Ind. They have been invited to take part in the
upcoming Madison Bicentennial in June.
Huffman isnt optimistic, but he is hopeful that Przewlocki can pull
off a similar effort to save the Mississippi Queen. It would take
a substantial mooring cell to hold a boat that size. And the Army Corps
of Engineers will have a stack of paperwork for them to work through.
Huffman said the Mississippi Queen also has been gutted and essentially
mothballed for the past two years. The owners at one point had started
to renovate the boat but stopped in midstream. It would take $1
million to finish that renovation alone, Huffman said.
The towboat captain said that despite the challenges, he hopes Przewlocki
succeeds because it would save the boat.
Meanwhile, Przewlocki and Landau have been talking with Murphy and Madison
Mayor Tim Armstrong about the infrastructure needs to accommodate parking
and traffic flow to and from the riverfront. They have discussed building
a parking garage on city owned land near the bridge. But Murphy said those
talks are preliminary in nature.
Id call it due diligence, just to try and determine the needs
should they succeed in bringing in the boat, Murphy said. Nothing
has been promised; there have been no agreements. We are simply working
on the conceptual stage. But Im excited about the possibility and
what Bob and David are doing down at the riverfront.
Armstrong, meanwhile, called the effort ambitious but that we need
to have a vision; we need to stay positive. What they are doing down on
the river could have a major impact on the area. I wish them luck, and
the city has pledged to help in any way it can.
Linda Lytle, executive director of the Madison Area Convention and Visitors
Bureau, said, Im thrilled about it, and I hope they dont
hit any snags in getting the boat here. It would be a great asset for
The 208 hotel rooms on board the Queen would contribute to the countys
hotel tax system, thereby boosting the tourism budget via innkeepers tax
revenue. The steamboat also has space that accommodated 157 crew members.
In addition to more hotel rooms, Lytle said, the town would benefit from
the bonus of having space on board the boat for meetings and events,
so it ought to be a big plus for us.
Kathie Petkovic, who moved to Madison in 2007 to manage the Riverboat
Inn, is a veteran of steamboat travel on the Ohio River. She and her parents
have taken dozens of cruises aboard all three Queens. Her second trip
to Madison was aboard the Mississippi Queen. She calls the effort to bring
the boat to Madison totally fantastic.
It would be great to have a paddlewheeler docked in Madison year-round,
said the former Florida Realtor. Some people have said it would
bring too many hotel rooms and restaurants in Madison, but I think it
would bring Madison to life. I hope they can do it.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout.
Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.