Seven of the most critical repairs to the Queen Mary have been completed by master leaseholder Urban Commons, while others will remain unfinished until additional funding becomes available, according to a city staff presentation to the Long Beach City Council during a special meeting on September 18.
The completed projects include repairs to decks M and A, updating fire systems, repairs to the exhibit hall and boiler room, expansion joint replacements, exterior rust removal and fresh paint, and repairs to leaking side tanks in the exhibit hall. However, 20 out of 27 critical repairs identified in a 2015 marine survey of the ship remain only partially funded or unfunded.
Johnny Vallejo, property services officer in the city’s economic development department, said the city’s initial $23 million investment to jumpstart the repair and preservation process with Urban Commons will be depleted by the end of the year. Of 11 partially completed projects, Vallejo said only some would be completed before funds run out.
More than 10 projects are expected to remain unfinished and unfunded until around 2027, when the $17.2 million in city bonds are repaid in full using fees charged by Carnival Cruise Line, unless additional revenue sources are identified, according to Economic Development Department Director John Keisler. The cost of all short-, mid- and long-term repairs as identified in the marine survey is between $235 million to $289 million and will be made over the next several decades, Keisler added.
Keisler said the city has a contract engineer that continuously reviews the urgency and prioritization of remaining repairs to ensure the ship is safe. If an area of the ship becomes unsafe, it is immediately closed off to the public. The Ghosts & Legends Tour, for example was closed for infrastructure repairs, and reopened last October after repairs were made, Assistant City Manager Tom Modica noted.
While some repairs were cheaper than anticipated, several far exceeded initial estimates. Updating the fire systems was originally pegged at $200,000, an estimate that inflated to $5.29 million as the project progressed. Roofing and deck repairs to the upper-most level of the ship were estimated at $2.13 million, but the completed project cost $5.97 million.
The presentation focused on ship improvements, but did include side notes related to the proposed Queen Mary Island development, which includes an amphitheater, retail stores, restaurants and more. Modica noted that the plans are being reviewed by city staff and revised with Urban Commons before being taken back to the Queen Mary Land Development Task Force. After the task force, plans will proceed to the Long Beach Planning Commission and then the city council.
“It’s clear to me when I visit the Queen Mary, particularly the last six months or so, just the amount of work that is happening on the ship,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “It is going through a pretty extensive renovation, there is construction everywhere – whether it’s the decks or the complete paint overhaul or what’s happening inside the ship, there are really a lot of important repairs.”
“The Queen Mary is a complex and important asset to the city,” Garcia said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Queen Mary is here to stay in Long Beach and we will invest in it appropriately. It’s an important part of our history and our relationship to the world.”