Patriots Point board OKs $13M budget

Patriots Point is aiming to boost ticket sales and increase other revenue sources to help pay for the upkeep of its piers and museum exhibits, such as the World War II-era aircraft carrier Yorktown (above).

The Patriots Point board approved a $13 million budget for its 2016 fiscal year Friday, including money for capital improvements and new exhibits at the state-owned tourist attraction.

The spending plan takes effect July 1. It represents an 8 percent increase from the Mount Pleasant naval and maritime museum’s current fiscal year.

“Today is a big day for Patriots Point,” Mac Burdette, executive director, said in a written statement. “The board approved a budget that is very ambitious and very aggressive.”

The plan gives the museum the resources to fund a business strategy that calls for the sale of 300,000 tickets annually within the next three years, he said. If it hits that goal, the museum would increase annual revenue by at least $600,000, according to an estimate.

“Creating a three-year plan is very important to us because we want to build trust with our business community,” Burdette said. “At the end of the day, we are a business.”

The proposed capital improvement projects for the year ahead will enhance the “overall visitor experience,” he added.

Also, work will begin on several exhibits to “continue to bring history to life using state-of-the-art technology,” Burdette said. Examples include a new phase of the Vietnam Experience Exhibit, the destroyer Laffey combat information center and the aircraft carrier Yorktown engine room.

The budget includes investments in the popular overnight camping and education programs on the Yorktown.

In addition, the new spending plan takes $800,000 from a $5 million reserve fund to help pay down a $9.2 million loan Patriots Point borrowed from the state to repair the Laffey several years ago.

Meanwhile, talks continue with Charleston-based Bennett Hospitality over a proposed real estate deal. The hotel company is seeking to lease about 60 acres of state-owned land near the waterfront tourist attraction for future development.

“The goal of the lease is to create a long-term stream of revenue that will ensure the restoration and maintenance of the museum’s ships and piers,” the Patriots Point Development Authority said in a statement Friday.

The state Budget and Control Board would have to approve the deal.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.