Sunday, February 28, 2010

Evansville Needs a Genuine Riverboat

One asset that Evansville has failed to take advantage of has been the Ohio River. Even though Evansville has a rich history with the Ohio River, which allowed for the city to make ships, become a major industrial manufacturer, and enjoy early economic prosperity downtown, most Evansville residents don't live near the river and usually don't partake in any activities that involve the river today. This is a terrible mistake that Evansville must correct.

What should Evansville do to correct this mistake and what are some cities to look to for ideas? The two cities that come to mind to me are Memphis ( ) which had a plan to add resorts, retail, and a themepark to its Mississippi riverfront (They're currently negotiating with Bass Pro Shops right now) and Pittsburgh which allows for its tourists to kayak and canoe the three rivers ( ). I think it's pretty reasonable to say that move Evansville residents would support resorts, retail, the amphitheater that was originally planned during the riverfront renovations, and a new marina, but what about actually getting residents and tourists actually on the river?

Evansville accomplished this task several years ago when Casino Aztar came to town. Unfortunately, Kentucky put up quite a battle over the fact that it was a gambling riverboat and it has since been docked. I would be shocked if Aztar ever took it back out on the river as they have recently applied for a dockside gambling license. This has left a void in the market of river tourism that needs to be fixed.

Back in August of 2008, I took a vacation to Hannibal, Missouri. Hannibal was the hometown of Mark Twain and is very historic. You can see many of the things that were in his books as well as partake in several other historic attractions. However, the one thing that grabs the most tourists is the Mark Twain Riverboat.

I must say that the riverboat was quite an experience. The price was reasonable and I enjoyed a great dinner, great music, and a nice voyage down the mighty Mississippi. It seems to me that a riverboat like this would fit in well with Evansville. It would offer great, affordable entertainment, it would renew Evansville's passion with the Ohio River, and it would draw a fair amount of tourists from all over the region to downtown Evansville. Most importantly, it won't cost an arm and a leg to implement and it's very doable.

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