LaPorte: RFP Issued for New Berth for Battleship Texas
Feature Photo (above): The battleship USS Texas at its Buffalo Bayou dock north of LaPorte. Image: Google Streets/2019/Tabish Shaikh Quadri.
by Eileen Pace
LaPorte (Harris County) — Moored for all but two years at the San Jacinto Battleground since 1948, the National Historic Landmark Battleship Texas is tired and needs a new home.
The Battleship Texas Foundation has issued a Request for Proposals to berth the ship after it is moved from its 70-year home port near Houston to a Gulf Coast shipyard for repairs.
According to the foundation’s press release, “The Battleship Texas Foundation (BTF) is now accepting proposals for the selection of a home port for the Battleship Texas after it returns from major repairs. The request for proposal (RFP) opened Jan. 21.”
Commissioned in 1914, the USS Texas (BB-35) is famous for its service in Normandy, North Africa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and her veterans from World War I and II have recorded the ship’s stories. After WWII, the Texas made three voyages from Pearl Harbor to California to return 5,000 troops to the mainland.
View from a heavy guns portal of the forward top deck and the San Jacinto monument in the distance. Image: Google Streets/2017/Jagannath Nicaud.
The dreadnaught class battleship is actually the second ship to carry the USS Texas name, after the first one (launched in 1892), renamed the San Marcos, was sunk in gun practice. The U.S.S. Texas is the last battleship of its kind still in existence.
Over the last 12 years, the state has appropriated $85 million in attempts to preserve the ship docked at the San Jacinto State Battleground Park, but that level of support ended with a $35 million appropriation in the last legislative session. Scrapping the battleship would have cost $30 million; dry-docking it at San Jacinto would have cost $100 million.
The BTF is seeking a new home port for the Battleship Texas that ensures sufficient paid visitor revenue can be generated to support the operation and maintenance needs of the ship well into the future.
(1) the ship’s present location north of LaPorte; (2 and 3) Baytown and Galveston are considering bids to become the ship’s new home.
Two Texas cities have been suggested for the opportunity to host the landmark warship. Citizens of Baytown have started a grassroots online petition to move the Texas to Bayland Park.
Lockhart State Representative John Cyrier would rather see it berthed in Galveston, where there’s already a strong tourism industry.
BTF Executive Director Bruce Bramlett told the Texas Tribune last year, “We’re looking at places where we easily can draw 300,000 to 350,000 people a year vs. the 80-thousand now,” referring to the visitors the battleship has drawn to its LaPorte berth.
Texas Senator Robert Nichols recalled that he visited the battleship as a youngster and donated coins from his own savings to a fundraiser created to help retain the Texas. As a state senator, Nichols began working on saving the ship six years ago, when the state senate voted to spend $25 million for repairs.
But, as the engineers examined the ship, they realized there were other things that were damaged.
“One was the big engines, which are larger than houses and are hanging from brackets that were rusty and close to rusting through. And if the brackets broke, the engines would drop and go through the hull,” Nichols told the Jacksonville Progress.
Approaching the last legislative session, Nichols was appointed to lead a working senate group charged with studying options for the future of the historic ship.
The BTF spent half a million dollars on a feasibility study on having the vessel repaired at a Gulf Coast shipyard.
USS Texas: View of the poor condition of machinery in an engine compartment. Image: Google Streets/2016/Ancelin Bonnet.
The state senate passed a bill in September, 2019, turning over operations of the Texas to the Battleship Texas Foundation for the next 99 years. Under the agreement, BTF will operate and maintain the ship for the State.
The BTF press release continued, “Currently the BTF and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are preparing the ship for transportation to a shipyard. There, repairs will include replacement of the hull from the waterline down and new paint, along with other necessary improvements.”
The ship is tentatively scheduled to depart her current berth between April-August, 2020, and will be in the shipyard for a period of about 12 months. Once the battleship leaves the shipyard, it should arrive at its new berth around August 2021.
Following a period to prepare the ship for reopening, the plan is to have it receiving visitors by early 2022.
Engineers gathered in the battleship’s pilot house during a tour of the ship to assess its condition. Image: Google Streets/January 2018/Doug Black.
Parties wishing to submit a RFP must contact the BTF through firstname.lastname@example.org to request the RFP package.
The BTF is a non-profit, founded in 1999 to preserve and enhance the Battleship Texas and to develop the historic landmark into a premier museum and visitor attraction.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.