Patriots Point outlines major three-year campaign to boost attendance
MOUNT PLEASANT — Coming off a profitable year, Patriots Point on Friday outlined an ambitious goal of boosting attendance by 30,000 people within three years and raising revenue by $2 million.
The annual income for the naval and maritime museum is about $9.5 million, but Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette aims to raise that to $11.7 million by 2016.
To get there, Burdette said Patriots Point must add 4,000 more campers to its existing 20,000 a year, attract nearly 5,000 more students to its educational programs, host 350 special events per year, increase property lease revenues by $350,000 and entice benefactors to open their wallets and donate $500,000 a year.
“Last year, we got zero,” he said of donations.
He said the agency must come up with a long-term plan to develop unencumbered property on the 366 acres it owns and operates on the edge of Charleston Harbor and suggested hiring a land-use economist to tell them what’s going to bring the best return. “This is the game plan,” Burdette told the nine-member board. “It is a big job, but it needs to be done so we will have more money to get the things done that we need to do.”
Patriots Point will get some new proceeds when the proposed $100 million Medal of Honor Museum leases 10 to 12 acres at the entrance to the tourist attraction, but it will need mountains of money to help pay for the staggering price of restoring its centerpiece attraction — the World War II-era aircraft carrier Yorktown.
The storied warship, commissioned in 1943 and docked in Charleston Harbor since 1975 in 26 feet of mud, needs an estimated $81 million overhaul, a tall task to be undertaken over decades.
The first phase of restoring it is an environmental assessment of the ship, which will begin later this fall. It will precede a structural analysis to determine the ship’s condition.
Patriots Point has embarked on a new advertising campaign called “Walk in the Steps of Heroes” to lure more tourists, and it plans to add interactive displays to give visitors a wow factor by bringing the ship to life.
Burdette wants the agency to commit at least $500,000 a year to advertising to market the attraction with higher penetration statewide and encourage more repeat visits from Charleston area residents.
“You have to spend money to make money,” he said.
Patriots Point finished its budget year in June with $500,000 in additional revenue over the previous year and nearly 9,400 more visitors, a 6 percent increase in paid attendance to 235,000 people last year.
The popular attraction’s paid attendance figures do not include overnight camping, educational programs and event participation, which add another 60,000 people to the waterfront museum.
A recent survey by the College of Charleston Office of Tourism Analysis estimates the tourist attraction impacts the local economy to the tune of about $50 million a year.
“In a year punctuated by fluctuating gas prices and economic uncertainty, we had a very positive year,” Burdette said. “Not only did we increase our total operating revenue by 5 percent over last year, but we achieved this while undertaking a $1 million project to return the USS Laffey to Patriots Point.”
The destroyer sailed back to a new berth beside the Yorktown in January after undergoing a $9.2 million overhaul to prevent it from sinking into Charleston Harbor four years ago.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524.