The Steamboat Natchez’s sister boat has arrived in New Orleans and has been officially named.
The stern wheeler, named “City of New Orleans,” docked in New Orleans on Wednesday after being towed down the Mississippi River. It will soon begin a complete overhaul.
In September, Gordon Stevens, president and CEO of New Orleans Steamboat Co. and Gray Line Tours, announced the purchase of the former Rock Island casino boat in Illinois.
Stevens said Friday he expects it to be open for business in March 2018. The boat cost $800,000 and will undergo about $6 million in renovations that will take about a year.
“At that point, we’ll have something worth twice that amount,” Stevens said.
Since purchasing it, the boat has been north of St. Louis receiving some upgrades including new bow and stern thrusters. The hull of the boat was also repaired.
The boat is about 76 feet shorter than the iconic Natchez; it is 189’ long and 55’ wide with three enclosed passenger decks. The boat will be licensed to hold 1,000 passengers and include a full-service kitchen and bars. The Natchez is licensed for 1,200 passengers.
“This will be important to the city because we’ll create jobs and have another beautiful stern wheeler riverboat,” Stevens said. “We’re so happy to see the wonderful growth in tourism in New Orleans, and we want to be ready for that.”
Stevens has said the purchase was a big step for the 41-year-old company. He said the Natchez has been “turning people away” because of an increased demand, so it made sense to bring in another vessel.
The new boat will have a larger interior capacity than the Natchez and will accommodate larger charters, special events, concerts, dance cruises and shows. But like the Natchez, Stevens said the boat will run harbor and dinner cruises and private charters.
The vessel will berth at the lower end of the Riverfront Park adjacent to the Steamboat Natchez. It will dock at the lower Bienville wharf, while the Natchez will continue to dock at the Toulouse wharf.
The company has leased the berthing spots from the Port of New Orleans. The Port of New Orleans on Sept. 22 voted to allow New Orleans Steamboat Co. to add the boat. The company launched the Natchez in 1975 and is now on its ninth steamer bearing the name.
The board agreed to extend the lease that has been in place since June 2000 and would expire if not renewed during the option periods in year 2030. The extension is proposed to be to the year 2045 in the form of three, five-year options. The company pays dockage charges applicable to the vessel as well as any other charges published in the port tariff.
The request for an additional 15-year lease extension satisfied a requirement by the company’s bank to finance the acquisition and refurbishment of the second day cruise vessel, according to the port’s resolution.
The kitchen will be rebuilt completely, and the interior will be refurnished.
The company will act as general contractor for the renovation along with marine architect, Andy Lebet of Florida-based DeJong & Lebet.