Bicentennial Bonanza

River Mill Resort set
to purchase Mississippi Queen

Paddlewheeler to be permanent
attraction on Madison riverfront

By Don Ward

(January 2009 ) – Madison, Ind.’s riverfront is about to become the site of a major attraction if Bob Przewlocki’s pending purchase of the Mississippi Queen is completed in the coming days. The owner and developer of River Mill Resort on the riverfront is close to negotiating the purchase of the paddlewheeler for an undisclosed amount from Los Angeles-based Ambassadors International.

Mississippi Queen

Photo by Don Ward

The Mississippi Queen riverboat was
built in 1976 to mark the American
Bicentennial. Hopes are high the
boat will be in place to celebrate
Madison’s 2009 Bicentennial.

The company owns the entire six-vessel fleet of riverboats, including the Delta and American Queens. The Mississippi, Delta and American Queens plied the Ohio River and are docked in New Orleans. The company’s West Coast vessels – the Empress of the North, Queen of the West and Columbia Queen – previously plied the Columbia River and are docked in Seattle.
Przewlocki wants to permanently dock the Mississippi Queen in front of his River Mill Resort and operate it as a floating hotel, complete with two restaurants and five bars. The vessel also features a disco, movie theater, swimming pool, spa and banquet facility. It has 208 state rooms to house 458 passengers plus additional cabins used to house 156 crew members.
“Our offer has been accepted, and now there are just some engineering and logistical issues that must be resolved during this time of due diligence,” said David Landau, who works for Przewlocki as the on-site River Mill Resort property manager.
“Once the deal is complete, our plan is to bring the boat to Madison as soon as possible so we can build the floating dock system and marina, where it will be permanently moored” in front of River Mill Resort, formerly the Meese building. “There will be a boardwalk type platform alongside of it.”

Mississippi Queen

• 3,364 tons
• Passengers: 458
• Crew members: 157
• State Rooms: 208
• 382 feet in length
• 68 feet wide
• 70 ton paddle wheel
• 5 bars
• 2 restaurants
• Banquet facility

• Pool, spa, movie theater
• Built in 1976 for the American Bicentennial
• Paddlewheel: 22 feet diameter, 36 feet wide, weighing 70 tons
• Onboard: The glassed-in engine room and Paddle Wheel Bar with floor-to-ceiling windows give passengers the unique opportunity of watching the mechanics in action. The calliope, (the largest calliope on the river with 44 pipes) is a steam driven organ whose music can be heard for five miles, announcing the boat’s arrival to the locals.
• Decor: The decor is All American, with floral wallpaper and fabric, beveled mirrors and crystal chandeliers and polished brass railings. Staircases are red carpeted with ornate banisters, chair and divans are Victorian.

Landau said he does not anticipate having any trouble obtaining the required permits from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to built the marina and dock on the river.
He added that having the Queen in Madison will be great for tourists who want to spend time down on the river or ride the trolley or horse-drawn carriages to and from Main Street. The vessel also is expected to employ 50 to 75 fulltime people and another 25 part-time.
Majestic America Line operated the fleet of steamboats for Ambassadors International, which put the fleet up for sale last year. The company ceased operations at the end of the 2008 season and is not booking cruises for 2009 for any of its vessels. The Delta Queen made its last stop in Madison in late October as part of its farewell cruise to Cincinnati and back to New Orleans, where it has been ever since.
The Mississippi Queen was built in 1976 to mark the American Bicentennial, and Przewlocki is hoping to have the vessel operating in Madison in time for the city’s June 2009 Bicentennial Celebration. The vessel did not cruise the past two years.
“It was built as a replica of the great steamboat era,” Landau said. “There is very little for us to do to get it operational; just cleanup and some mechanical rehab.”
The Mississippi Queen is the second-largest riverboat in existence, after the American Queen. It is an authentic steamboat with a 70-ton paddlewheel. The glassed-in engine room and Paddle Wheel Bar with floor-to-ceiling windows give passengers the unique opportunity of watching the mechanics in action. The boat’s caliope, with 44 pipes, is the largest in existence. It features a steam-driven organ whose music can be heard for five miles.
Przewlocki and Landau say they are close to negotiating a contract with a worldwide financial and professional services firm, Jones Lang LaSalle, which specializes in real estate and investment management. It employs more than 30,000 people in 700 cities in 60 countries. If the deal is made with JLL, the company would complete the negotiations of the purchase of the Mississippi Queen, then handle all lease agreements for on-board operators of the hotel, restaurants and bars, Landau said.
Reached at her Detroit office in late December, Jones Lang LaSalle vice president Carole Rich said she is excited about the recent talks with River Mill Resort and says the two companies are close to a deal.
“We are just now getting our arms around the project,” said Rich. “I’d say we’re not pregnant yet, but we’re dating. It sounds fascinating.”
She said the company must evaluate the proposal on many levels and then it will make its decision of whether to get involved with River Mill Resort’s grandiose plans for the landbased condos, entertainment complex and floating hotel and restaurants.
Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong said having the Queen in Madison will be “a great attraction for our residents and visitors. I hope they can pull it off. I am constantly fascinated with what they are doing down there on the river. They have big dreams for Madison.”
Landau, meanwhile, says the Mississippi Queen will be the perfect complement to the River Mill Resort project.
“Not only will the Queen pay tribute to Madison’s steamboat history, it will fit in nicely with what we are doing at River Mill Resort. It will be a major attraction parked right in front of our premier entertainment complex,” he said.

• For more information on the riverfront development, visit: www.RiverMillResort.com.

Back to January 2009 Articles.



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