Rains and high river levels have delayed the launch of the Ohio River’s next ferry service, but things should change around Labor Day.
The Rising Star Casino Resort christened its new ferry boat, the mv. MS Lucky Lady, in July (WJ, July 23), but service between Rising Sun and Rabbit Hash, Ky., will have to wait another couple of weeks.
“We had some unexpected difficulties due to excess rain, which delayed construction on the access roads and created high river levels. Construction is now in the home stretch. After three years of planning and construction, we expect that our first day of ferry service is within weeks,” said Suzanne Valencia, executive assistant to Dan Lee, CEO of Full House Resorts, the parent company of Rising Star.
The ferry’s main purpose is to increase business at the Rising Star Resort, but it will be open for use by the general public, too. It will be the first vehicle ferry service between the two communities since 1948.
The MS (for motor ship) Lucky Lady was built by Inland Boat Works of Bridge City, Texas. It is one of the company’s truckable boats, specifically the Model 2516. It measures 26 feet long and 16 feet wide, with a draft of 5.5 feet. The pilothouse has an eye level of 19 to 20 feet. It is powered by two John Deere engines each generating 350 hp.
The ferry barge itself is 105.6 feet long, 38 feet wide and 5 feet deep. It weighs 93 gross tons and has articulating ramps at each end. It was built by St. Johns Ship Building of Palatka, Fla.
Once the ferry service is launched next month, it will run every 15 minutes, seven days a week. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. Fares are $5 one way and $8 for a round trip. Monthly passes and reservations will be available.
MS Lucky Lady Capt. Jim Hensley said the ferry will have two deckhands who will be dressed in uniforms and who will “talk to people with a smile.”
In the process of acquiring property and filing for permits, Full House learned that the permit for the first ferry between Rabbit Hash and Rising Sun in the 1800s authorized it to work from the mouth of Middle Creek on the Kentucky side. That’s next to the location of the MS Lucky Lady’s ramp, Lee said.
“Where we’re putting it is where it first started,” he said.
In the Full House quarterly earnings report, Lee said Rising Star guests who arrive by ferry will find “a warmer and more welcoming entry pavilion and hotel lobby, renovated over the past few months.”
This ferry will increase Rising Sun’s access to the Cincinnati suburbs in Northern Kentucky and to people driving through, Lee said. Rising Sun is located at about Mile 506 of the Ohio. That puts it about 20 miles from the nearest bridge each way. People from Northern Kentucky who might want to visit the Rising Star must pass casinos that are closer to those two bridges. Thus, the ferry would provide an access to the casino that would bypass the competition.
The mayor of Rising Sun is looking forward to benefits to the community beyond the casino’s property line.
“It’s definitely a big level of convenience for us,” said Mayor Fred Bascom. Among other things, the ferry will make travel from Rising Sun to the Cincinnati suburbs in Northern Kentucky easier. A drive that takes 45 minutes to an hour will take only 20 minutes after a car gets off the ferry, he said.
The ferry will also make it more convenient for people in Rabbit Hash to shop in Rising Sun instead of the Cincinnati suburbs, he said.
“It’s one of those things that’s mutually beneficial to both parties,” Bascom said.
The city is negotiating with a business about building a marina along the Rising Sun riverfront, Bascom said.
“I think there will be other things that fall in line. If we get more people coming into our city, there may be more commercial development,” he said.