Inland Marina in Evansville, Ind., is the former home of LST-325. Tourism officials hope to renovate it so that Evansville can become a port of call for visiting river cruise ships. (Photo courtesy of Visit Evansville)

Evansville Officials Hope To Attract River Cruises With Former LST Dock

Evansville, Ind., tourism officials want to rehabilitate the former dock for a World War II amphibious vessel and use it to attract riverboat cruises.

Inland Marina was the home of LST-325 until the ship relocated alongside a new museum in a downtown area adjacent to a riverfront park in June 2020. That move was made possible when the Tropicana Casino moved from a riverboat to a land-based operation in October 2017. LST-325 is now located where the casino boat had been moored from 1995 to 2017. 

On April 28, the Evansville-Vanderburgh County Convention and Visitors Commission board voted to request that the Vanderburgh County Council permit $60,000 of the money raised from hotel room taxes be used to cover maintenance work and other expenses at the former LST-325 dock at Inland Marina, as well as to create fresh promotional materials to show cruise lines.

While the meeting to discuss the proposal will be June 1, Alexis Berggren, president and CEO of Visit Evansville, mentioned the need during a quarterly budget update to the council on May 4.

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.

‘We are working very hard to bring riverboats back to our shores,” she said. “We are actively engaged with the three riverboat companies that are currently sailing the Ohio, and all three are very, very interested in Evansville as a potential port of call.”

Those companies are American Queen Voyages, American Cruise Lines and BB Riverboats, although Berggren said discussions are furthest along with American Cruise Lines.

“We’re also going after Viking River Cruises,” she told the board. “They are not currently sailing the Ohio, but they are building 22 new boats, so we don’t see why they can’t.”

Berggren said Visit Evansville is working closely with the city of Evansville, which owns Inland Marina, and the marina managers to make the dock viable again.

“And like I said, there is a lot of interest,” she told the board.

She added, “We need to do not only some work to that area itself, but we’re also in the process of developing excursion ideas for these boats so that once the guests get off we can take them to our attractions, take them to our retailers and restaurants, things like that. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I think it’s very doable, and I think there is a lot of excitement surrounding that.”

While no cruise lines currently visit Evansville as a port of call, some do stop at Henderson, Ky., across the river.

Work on the dock is not expensive but includes several “deferred maintenance” items not attended to during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

That includes replacing ballasts, pumping out some tanks, greasing hinges and applying fresh paint, along with some minor electrical work, she said.

“It just needs a little TLC,” Berggren said. “It’s still a great asset.”

There will be a need for ongoing funds for maintenance once it is in use, however, she added.

Positive attributes of the site include that it has already been permitted by the Corps of Engineers as a docking space when LST-325 used it and that it already has adequate parking facilities, a gangway and a bar and restaurant on-site.

“It’s really just an untapped treasure, I feel, at this point,” she said.

Berggren stressed to the county board that the tourism industry is in an “intense time of evolution” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The tastes and interests of travelers have changed dramatically, and destinations just like ours are fighting fiercely to attract them,” she said.

While cruise lines often determine their ports of call two to three years in advance, Berggren said some companies, including BB Riverboats, might have the ability to come in earlier than that to provide daytime or evening river cruises.

“We’re developing our packages, looking at what our marketing efforts are going to look like, looking at our excursion opportunities, talking to our downtown retailers,” Berggren said. “We’ve just been met with nothing but excitement and enthusiasm.”

Caption for photo: Inland Marina in Evansville, Ind., is the former home of LST-325. Tourism officials hope to renovate it so that Evansville can become a port of call for visiting river cruise ships. (Photo courtesy of Visit Evansville)