Patriots plans bigger Fourth Flight deck to be open to spectators

In this file photo, spectators watch the Patriots Point fireworks display from downtown Charleston’s Waterfront Park. For the first time, fireworks will be launched from a donated barge in the harbor instead of the flight deck of the World War II-era aircraft carrier Yorktown. That means the flight deck will be opened to spectators for the first time.

The Fourth of July celebration at Patriots Point is one of the biggest events of the year in the Lowcountry.

This year it will be even bigger with two notable changes for the 25,000-plus people who attend each year, including higher parking rates, Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette said Friday.

For the first time, fireworks will be launched from a donated barge in Charleston Harbor instead of the flight deck of the World War II-era aircraft carrier Yorktown. That means the flight deck will be opened to spectators for the first time.

The moored museum will charge $10 per ticket for those wanting to watch the show from the flight deck, and Patriots Point will rent out special sections of the ship to interested parties.

For the first time also, the fireworks being launched will include 8-inch shells.

“They are not used anywhere else in South Carolina,” Burdette said.

The larger shells will make for bigger firework bursts over the harbor, adding a new element to the patriotic display.

“It will be the biggest and best ever,” he said, noting that the event will be marketed statewide with the help of Charleston and Mount Pleasant to draw tourists into the metro area.

The town of Mount Pleasant is donating $20,000, and the city of Charleston is contributing $5,000 toward the nearly $50,000 cost of the celebration, Burdette said. The fireworks alone cost about $20,000.

Another big change is an increase in the parking fee for one day only on July Fourth. Patriots Point will charge $10 per car this year. It is usually $5.

“We think that’s a reasonable amount for that one day of the year,” Burdette said.

The additional revenue from the event is expected to help Patriots Point post another profitable year for its upcoming budget period that starts July 1.

Revenues are expected to come in just under $10 million at about $9.7 million. Expenses will be about $8.8 million. The remaining funds will be used for savings or other projects as needed, Burdette said.

The proposed spending plan does not include any hikes in fees for parking or admission, he added. It includes one new employee in information technology to add to the 73 current full-time workers at Patriots Point.

Burdette also reported that the current year’s budget will bring in $9.5 million through June 30, with a savings of about $435,000.

The board is expected to vote on next year’s spending plan during its June meeting.

The naval museum’s board also met behind closed doors for about two hours to discuss options for the submarine Clamagore, a master development plan for 36 acres it owns around the ticket office and a possible contract with Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission for some restricted-use land at Patriots Point.

The board took no action on any of the items.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524.