Yorktown to stay put for repairs

The aircraft carrier Yorktown at Patriots Point

MOUNT PLEASANT -- The centerpiece attraction of Patriots Point won't go anywhere for repairs.

The naval and maritime museum's board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday to repair the World War II-era aircraft carrier Yorktown where it sits on the edge of Charleston Harbor instead of shipping it elsewhere.

"The only logical solution is to restore it in place with a cofferdam," Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette said.

Board members said they couldn't imagine tourists driving across the Ravenel Bridge and not seeing the Yorktown sitting there. They said moving it for repairs would be an economic blow to one of the Charleston area's major tourist attractions, which is grappling for ways to fund what could be very costly fixes for the aging vessel.

A structural analysis of the ship is due next year and repair costs have been estimated as high as $100 million, though no one knows for sure how much it will cost. The vessel has been sitting in 26 feet of mud since 1975 and has received several plugs to keep salt water from seeping in and toxic fluids from leaking out.

The cofferdam alone could cost as much as $21 million if the board chooses to go with a permanent structure around the ship to keep up with maintenance.

Meanwhile, the destroyer Laffey, which was shipped upriver to North Charleston for repairs, is due to return in January. Patriots Point is trying to come up with a plan to repay a state loan of $9 million to repair the warship.

The board expects to unveil a master plan, developed through the nonprofit fundraising Patriots Point Foundation, near the first of the year to develop 36 prime acres around the ticket office into a nationally prominent destination and use the proceeds to inject much-needed cash into the state agency's long-term needs.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/WarrenLanceWise.