Delta Queen’s new owners propose Missouri homeport

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The Delta Queen hasn't operated as a passenger vessel since 2008.

The Delta Queen Steamboat Co., a newly formed company that purchased the storied Delta Queen earlier this year, has selected Kimmswick, Mo., as the homeport for the 88-year-old paddlewheeler, assuming Congress allows the vessel to sail again.

Currently, the Delta Queen cannot legally sail overnight cruises because the congressional exemption from fire safety laws that it benefited from for decades expired in 2008. But legislation was reintroduced this year — House Bill 1248 and Senate Bill 1717 — that would allow the Delta Queen to resume overnight cruise operations.

In the meantime, the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. is gearing up to put the vessel back in service in 2016, assuming the congressional exemption is approved. And Kimmswick, which is 25 miles south of St. Louis, is applauding the potential economic impact for the region if it does.

According to the Jefferson County Economic Development Corp., the Delta Queen entering back into operation in the St. Louis region has the ability to create more than 170 jobs locally and bring in more than $36.4 million to the St. Louis region annually.

It is expected that the Delta Queen will begin and end a number of its cruises each year in Kimmswick and will visit more than 80 other ports in the U.S. including: New Orleans; Little Rock, Ark.; Memphis, Tenn.; Nashville, Tenn.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pa.; St. Paul, Minn.; Galveston, Texas; and Mobile, Ala.

“The Delta Queen will not only develop a greater awareness of Kimmswick as a historical destination but will re-establish the city as an important American riverboat district as it was in the late nineteenth century,” Philip Stang, mayor of Kimmswick, said in a statement.

Built in 1926, the Delta Queen has a steel hull and a wooden superstructure. After launching in 1927, it carried passengers, cargo and automobiles between Sacramento and San Francisco in California. From 1946 to 2008, the Delta Queen operated as an overnight passenger vessel along the Mississippi River System. Since 2009, the vessel had been docked in Chattanooga, Tenn., where it has operated as a floating hotel.

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