Bruce Bramlett, executive director of the Battleship Texas Foundation, said the foundation had received numerous phone calls and emails from members of the public since the ship closed for extensive repairs in August 2019.
Repairing the Texas: Steady as she goes: Volunteers help restore Battleship Texas before dry dock repairs later this year
After crunching the numbers and figuring out the attendance needed to come out even, the foundation decided that the July 4 weekend would be the perfect time to reopen to the public.
Bramlett expected 2,000-3,000 people to visit the ship over the two days, but July 3 was the busiest he has seen the ship since its 100-year anniversary celebration in 2014. He now expects the number of weekend visitors to top 5,000.
The Battleship Texas has been at its current location at the San Jacinto Battleground Historic Site in La Porte since 1948 after the State of Texas acquired it from the Navy following the end of World War II, a first of its kind acquisition.
Legislation passed by the Texas Legislature in 2019 provided $35 million for repairs and preservation for the Texas. It also transferred ownership from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the Battleship Texas Foundation for a 99-year lease.
As part of the legislation and receiving the money, the Battleship Texas Foundation had to come up with a plan to better provide the revenue needed to sustain it.
According to Bramlett, the foundation needs over three times the approximately 80,000 annual visitors that the ship had been receiving to make the operation feasible.
“We just have not been able to do that in a long, long time,” he said. “As much as I love this area, and it’s a beautiful setting, we need to be someplace that gets more visitors.”
No final decision has been made as to the ship’s next home, but Bramlett said that Galveston is the likely destination.
He mentioned that Corpus Christi, another destination that has been speculated about, will not be the ship’s next home.
While there are no definitive plans for the Battleship Texas to be open to the public again before it leaves for repairs in a dry dock in early 2022 prior to being taken to its new home, Bramlett wants to open it up for one or two more weekends.
He does not see those final events as a farewell tour.
“I don’t think we’re going to go that far,” he said. “It’s not like she’s going to leave the state. She’s not even going to leave the Greater Houston Area. Her home is still going to be here, and she’s still going to be accessible.”
Bramlett acknowledges the long history the Battleship Texas has with the area, mentioning how area kids used to go get a meal at the San Jacinto Inn next door — which closed in 1987 — and then would go visit the ship.
He likens the situation to a person moving from a home he or she has lived in for many years to a new home. He is confident that, once people see the new location and new home, they will be excited and pleased. He reiterated that the ship will remain close by.
Shana Marsh came from Livingston on Saturday with her son to tour the Battleship Texas — her first time on the ship since her parents took her as a child.
Marsh’s great-grandfather, Gay Munn, served on the Texas.
She described her son as a “battleship fanatic,” and decided to tour the ship once they heard it would be open.
She is excited about the move because it will allow more people to see the ship.
Ron Lewis, a Battleship Texas Foundation volunteer from the Baytown Area who was working on the ship on July 3, had served in the navy and got interested in the Texas after taking a behind-the-scenes tour.
His main thought about the move is that he hopes the ship remains close enough for him to continue driving to and volunteering on.
Plans for the near future are to wait for Hurricane season to end and to transport the ship to a dry dock in Galveston in January or February 2022 for further repairs.
The ship would be moved to its new home about a year later.
“Wherever we end up, we’re going to take our history with us,” said Bramlett. “Our history was in the Atlantic (where the Texas provided artillery support for the allies during and following the D-Day invasion). Our history was in the Pacific (Where the Texas provided artillery support for the allies during the battles of Okinawa and Iwo Jima). Our history was in Cuba. Our history was in South America.”