A Troubled Queen Mary Wooed by 18 : Landmarks: Long Beach receives proposals both to move the ship and to operate it where it’s moored. A decision is expected in the next two weeks.
Long Beach has received 13 proposals to buy the Queen Mary--including one that would return the ship to its original port in England--and five other offers to run the city-owned tourist attraction where it is moored, officials said Tuesday.
At least eight of the proposals would move the ship to other countries, including Japan and Canada, said Steven Dillenbeck, director of the city’s Harbor Department, which has jurisdiction over the Queen Mary.
One offer to keep the vessel in Long Beach came from a coalition of religious and environmental groups, which proposed turning it into an education and entertainment center to promote protection of the environment.
Under most of the proposals, the ship would be used as a hotel and entertainment center, Dillenbeck said.
The city’s Board of Harbor Commissioners is expected to decide whether to accept one of the proposals in the next two weeks, Dillenbeck said.
Board Vice President Alex Bellehumeur said preliminary information indicated that there were some solid offers. “It looks promising from either standpoint,” Bellehumeur said, referring to either selling the ship or leasing it to a new operator.
Long Beach sought the proposals because the Walt Disney Co., which has operated the Queen Mary since 1988, is abandoning the money-losing tourist attraction at the end of this year.
City officials have been clashing over whether to keep the Long Beach icon, which needs millions of dollars in repairs to make it safe for employees and tourists.
Dillenbeck declined to release details of the proposals pending further review by his staff. But officials connected with four of the proposals spoke with The Times.
Sea Containers Ltd., a Bermuda-based firm that manufactures shipping containers, submitted the proposal that would return the Queen Mary to Southampton, England.
Officials of the company could not be reached for comment, but one of the plan’s biggest boosters said the Queen Mary would be used as a hotel, business park, ship museum and, possibly, a casino. Southampton City Councilman David Abraham said city officials hope the ship could attract tourists and boost the local economy.
Abraham said he was 14 years old when he stood dockside and watched the Queen Mary leave for Long Beach.
“The ship was here for the best part of 30-odd years,” he said. “There was great sadness the day the Queen Mary left in 1967.”
A group of Japanese real estate investors and operators led by Tokyo businessman Kouichi Hara envisions the Queen Mary as a luxury hotel, office and entertainment center in Tokyo Bay, said Long Beach lawyer Randolph Linehan, who is representing the group.
The group would spend up to $15.5 million to make the ship seaworthy and to tow it to Tokyo. It would pay the city about $7.5 million, Linehan said.
Six other proposals would put the ship in Japan, England, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Canada or the Bahamas, harbor spokeswoman Yvonne R. Avila said. Two of the proposals would move the ship elsewhere in the United States, but officials declined to say where. Port officials would release no information on three other proposals to buy the ship.
An unusual proposal to keep the ship in Long Beach came from a coalition that includes the South Coast Ecumenical Council, the Southern California Ecology Council and the United Nations Assn. of the United States.
Spokesman Gary Herbertson said the group would continue to run the hotel and shops, but it would establish an environmental research and teaching center and an entertainment center featuring environment-conscious entertainers.
“We see the Queen Mary as a community resource especially for the children,” Herbertson said.
Another proposal to operate the ship for the city came from Joseph F. Prevratil, who oversaw the Queen Mary for the Wrather Corp. from 1982 to 1988, when Disney bought the firm. A card casino could be incorporated into the proposal if necessary, Prevratil said, but he declined to release further details of his proposal or financial backers.
A consultant recently recommended that a high-grossing card club would make the ship profitable. Seeking to keep its options open, the City Council placed a measure on the November ballot seeking voter approval of gambling on the ship.
Even without a casino, Prevratil insists he can succeed where Disney failed.
Disney has lost as much as $10.8 million a year since it took over the ship, which is badly rusted and needs $13.8 million to $27 million in repairs in the next five years, according to recent reports.
The future of the Queen Mary will be clouded even more if the Board of Harbor Commissioners decides in favor of one of the proposed operators.
City officials are considering a development plan that would create a bustling tourist harbor in the downtown area. Some city officials, including Mayor Ernie Kell, contend the aging ocean liner has no role in that proposed development.
Other city officials contend that the ship is a symbol of Long Beach that should not be lost.
The Queen Mary was built in Scotland and launched by Cunard Steamship Co. Ltd. in 1934. Long Beach purchased the ship for $3.45 million in 1967, and then spent $66 million over the next four years to refurbish it. The city has leased it to various operators over the years.