Bringing the Yorktown to life Plan aims at next generation of visitors

Proposed changes to the Yorktown at Patriots Point include shifting the main entrance farther right, toward the bow of the carrier.

MOUNT PLEASANT — Walk by a wartime aircraft displayed on the World War II-era aircraft carrier Yorktown and trigger the whir of an engine or explosions in the background.

Look out the corner of your eye and you might see a hologram of two sailors appear out of nowhere while they do their job.

Watch first-person experiences of the war on a movie screen, complete with sound effects, while former fighting machines dangle from the ceiling over your head.

Those are just a few of the changes planned to bring Patriots Point’s centerpiece attraction to life through high-tech interactive displays.

The naval museum’s goal is not just to bring the static displays into the 21st century, but to boost attendance by nearly 20 percent and the bottom line by an additional $1.2 million a year by 2016.

The first exhibits should be ready by early fall, eventually boosting ticket sales by 40,000 to 270,000 a year by 2016, Burdette said.

Patriots Point unveiled the $4 million plan Friday with help from Musaic Design Group of Boston, which the tourist attraction hired for $45,000 to come up with a proposal to make the Yorktown a must-see site for tourists and local residents.

Instead of coming to Charleston to see the city, “this will be the place people come to Charleston to see,” said Mac Burdette, Patriots Point executive director.

Patriots Point Development Authority will provide $2 million toward the upgrades over the next three years and ask the USS Yorktown (CV-10) Association and the Patriots Point Foundation to kick in a similar amount. About 20 percent of the money will be used for infrastructure improvements such as wiring, lighting and security for the exhibits, Burdette said.

Todd Cummins, president of the Yorktown Association, said the funding can be raised by looking into sponsorships by businesses and industries for major exhibits on the ship.

The plan will employ the latest technology to tell the stories of the carrier and its crew. It also will chart a course for a new museum over the next decade.

“The use of personal stories and real-life events is what’s going to bring this ship to life,” said Matt Kirchman of Musaic Design Group.

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The plan calls for shifting the main entrance toward the ship’s bow, creating a central hub for tours, rearranging aircraft and displays throughout the hangar bay deck, moving concessions, and eventually putting traveling exhibits in the space now occupied by the Medal of Honor Museum.

A separate proposal is in the works to build a $100 million Medal of Honor Museum on a parcel near the entrance of Patriots Point.

Another plan for the Yorktown calls for lowering a suspended B-25 airplane, like those used in the Doolittle Raid over Japan, to the floor so visitors can interact with it and experience it at eye level.

The Yorktown, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary April 14, came to Patriots Point in 1975. With World War II and the Korean War veterans passing on or aging, the state-owned attraction is looking to attract the next generation of visitors.

“We’ve got to attract a new generation with interactive, push-button technology that is going to excite them,” Burdette said.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or