The Lowell Showboat Last Summer
The current Lowell Showboat is going away, but it's still going to be a couple years before anything visible happens. “The process that we are in, the city is making an SPR [Site Plan Review] to put the boat [construction] out for bid,” said Lou D'Agostino, chair of the Rebuild the Lowell Showboat committee. “We're working with the city because the city owns the boat and the city received the grant for the boat. We've gotten all the engineering worked out. It's just a matter of getting with the boat builders and seeing what they will build it for.”
There is a one in three chance the new boat will be constructed by a Michigan firm, although not a local company. "We will give it out to three boat builders and will choose from them,” D'Agostino said. “We have a Michigan builder that we are going to send blueprints to, they're from up in Onaway. I'm leaning towards that builder because they're somewhat local, being from the state of Michigan. The other two potential builders are from Kentucky and Tennessee.
If everything goes right, and everything hasn't gone right so far, we plan on getting the boat in the water by spring of 2020.” The new boat will be stationary like the current one, so unless there's some terrible disaster, you'll never see it floating up and down the river. "It'll be floating, but it'll be a stationary boat,” D'Agostino said. “It's also going to be a banquet facility. It's never going to go up and down the river again. With all the floods, the boat has never really performed well, as far as going up and down the river. It was just too big of a boat for the small river and the dam. You just can't do it as easily now as you could 30 years ago.”
The new boat will arrive in two huge steel pieces, then it will be assembled on site. The committee expects it to last until approximately the year 2070. “The boat is going to be 100 feet long by 30 feet wide and it's coming in two pieces,” D'Agostino said. “It's easier to move down the road. We're building the boat out of all steel so this might be the last boat. It's going to last longer. Its life expectancy is at least 50 years, that's how long it should be before we have to take the boat out of the water and repair it." They plan to wait until spring of 2020 to avoid weather-related construction problems.
“There won't be anything in the water by 2019 for a couple reasons,” D'Agostino said. “The main reason is the water. It doesn't freeze up too bad, but it freezes up a little bit so we'd rather wait for the spring thaw to put the boat in the water.”