Declaring that it is in Long Beach’s best interest to keep the Queen Mary home, City Manager James C. Hankla urged the City Council on Thursday to reject a proposal to move the famed ship to Tokyo for three to five years.
Hankla’s recommendation came in response to a plan presented to the city by Queen Mary operator Joseph F. Prevratil, who said the city-owned ship would generate enough money as a floating hotel-casino to finance a $40-million overhaul of the vessel. Prevratil, whose plan drew international interest, also proposed buying the 61-year-old ship outright for $22 million.
Hankla, in a report to the council, said he did not want to sell or temporarily move the ship. He said loss of the Queen Mary would damage Long Beach’s efforts to boost tourism. Calling the ship and its 300-room hotel “a major employer,” Hankla said so many jobs would be lost that it would have “a significant impact upon the city’s economic recovery efforts.”
Instead, Hankla recommended paying for the renovation of the ship by extending Prevratil’s lease and allowing him to proceed with plans to develop the 55-acre parcel where the ship is docked.
Prevratil wants to build a futuristic theme park called “Future Port” on the 55-acre lot, along with a maritime museum and a special events park for the public.
On the parcel now, in addition to the Queen Mary, are the dome that once housed Howard Hughes’ famed airplane, the Spruce Goose, and the Queen Mary Seaport Village, a small cluster of retail shops. The Catalina Express commuter terminal is also based there.
Prevratil said Thursday that he was in the process of reviewing Hankla’s recommendations.
“We presented the city with what we thought was a sound business plan that would result in much-needed repairs to the Queen Mary,” Prevratil said. “But I’m not locked into the idea. If it is the will of the City Council that the Queen Mary stay here, so be it.”
The Long Beach City Council is expected to act on Prevratil’s plan Tuesday. Hankla predicted that there would be months of negotiation ahead if the leasehold is redrafted and extended.
Mayor Beverly O’Neill and other city leaders said from the beginning that they did not like the idea of moving the Queen Mary and would do so only if there was no other way of financing repairs.
“People want to see it stay here,” said O’Neill said Thursday.
John Thompson, president of the Historical Society of Long Beach and one of the most vocal critics of Prevratil’s plan, called Hankla’s proposal to keep the ship in Long Beach “a positive development.” But he said he was concerned about extending Prevratil’s lease and said he was alarmed by the plan to build a futuristic theme park next to the ship.
“I don’t see a correlation between a wonderful 1930s Art Deco ocean liner and intergalactic space travel exhibits,” Thompson said. “The surrounding development should be a complement to the Queen Mary, not a competitor.”
Prevratil said the “Future Port” attraction would be inside the dome, which now is rented to Warner Bros. for filming movies. “It doesn’t correlate to the Queen Mary, but it certainly correlates with the dome, which is far more contemporary,” Prevratil said.