The Patriots Point Development Authority took the first steps Tuesday toward turning 14 wooded acres into additional event space and parking.
The $1.2 million plan would move the entrance to the state-owned naval and maritime museum past the current gate house and farther down Patriots Point Road.
Rather than approaching from the side, visitors would pull into the site looking straight at its biggest draw, the aircraft carrier Yorktown.
Operations Director Bob Howard said the extra acreage would add 175 to 200 parking spaces in a lot that will absorb rainwater, plus room for people and groups who want to stage events at Patriots Point. He said the project should cost about $1.2 million.
Board members gave the go-ahead for the staff to make an application to the Joint Bond Review Committee, a group of lawmakers that reviews state financial obligations and recommends projects to the Budget and Control Board.
The same group gave the go-ahead on a $9.2 million state loan for emergency repairs to the World War II destroyer Laffey last summer.
Dick Trammell, Patriots Point's executive director, said the agency "is looking at a number of options" for funding the project.
He said the proposal could become a reality by year's end and serve as an initial step in the attraction's overhaul under a land master plan that's in the works.
Trammell also stressed that anything built on the parcel, such as basic facilities to accommodate camping scouts, would take into consideration future changes.
"We're not doing anything over here that will make us grieve if we have to dig it up later," Trammell said.
The board also briefly discussed its ongoing search for a permanent home for the Laffey. Following its extensive repairs, the warship sits at a State Ports Authority pier in North Charleston, but it must be moved by the end of May, before the June 1 start of hurricane season.
Patriots Point estimated that moving the ship into the former spot of the Coast Guard cutter Ingham or returning it to its own previous location would each cost $600,000 or more.
Patriots Point can rent commercial space before bringing the ship back to Mount Pleasant for an estimated $150,000 per year.
Since the board initially wanted to move the Laffey alongside the Yorktown, it opted at last month's meeting to consider all choices before making a decision about the ship's transfer. Trammell said Tuesday that staff still needed further information on three potential locations, which he declined to name, before making its decision.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.