Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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July 3, 2014

Evansville reaches deal to keep WWII Navy ship docked

EVANSVILLE (AP) — A new contract that will keep a World War II-era Navy ship docked in southwestern Indiana for at least five more years has ended an Illinois city’s bid to lure the ship to its waters.

Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke announced Tuesday that the nine-member LST-325 board had agreed to a five-year contract, with an option for a five-year extension, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

The mayor learned Tuesday morning that a majority of the board’s members had chosen to keep the ship on the Ohio River in Evansville, rather than pursue a rival bid from the Illinois city of Peoria.

Winnecke said he “could not be more pleased” that Evansville will remain the LST’s home port, but urged local residents to keep supporting the floating museum.

“We won, and it’s a nice win for our community,” he said. “Let’s show our appreciation to the LST board by bringing out your Scout troop, church group, neighborhood association for a tour.”

Evansville built a $3 million dock on the Ohio River in 2005 to accommodate the vessel, which took part in the 1944 D-Day landings in France.

Peoria officials promised to provide $500,000 of the $1.5 million estimated cost of relocating the vessel to their community, while the remaining $1 million would have come from other sources. But a motion to provide the full $1.5 million for the LST failed in a 6-5 Peoria City Council vote, all but sealing the board’s decision to keep the ship in Evansville.

Donahue said Peoria faced “an uphill battle against a good incumbent city.”

The LST is docked at Marina Pointe and board members want the ship closer to downtown Evansville. Winnecke said the LST is being promised the dock now occupied by Tropicana Evansville’s boat if Indiana brings casino gambling onto land in the future.

Donahue said that offer was “a game changer” in negotiations with Evansville. Winnecke and other city officials have vowed to fight for land-based casinos.

The Evansville Shipyard was the largest inland producer of LSTs, which were used to put troops aboard land during World War II. The shipyard produced about 165 of the vessels, although the LST 325 was not among them.

About 20,000 people were employed at the shipyard.

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