Interest stirring to relocate battleship to Bayland Island
With the Battleship Texas possibly leaving its berth for good once some planned repairs are completed, the City of Baytown has now been mentioned as a potential location.
The idea recently appeared on Russell Hamman’s Facebook page, Hamman’s Baytown History....with a Twist, a site that delves into the history of Baytown. Hamman said he spoke with Bruce Bramlett, the executive director of the Battleship Texas Foundation, about having the historic ship brought to Baytown. Hamman said one area under consideration is near Bayland Island where a hotel/conference center is soon to be constructed.
“Just think of it, driving over the Fred Hartman Bridge and seeing her down below in all her glory,” Hamman posted on his site. “And the proposed hotel behind the Bayland Marina would be a great place to stay while visiting the ship.”
Hamman even mentioned having some local petrochemical entities as sponsors.
Bramlett said they are looking for a home for the celebrated dreadnought.
“(Hamman) wanted to know if we would consider Baytown,” Bramlett said. “I said these are the issues- if Baytown wants to throw their hat and come forward with a rotation and a proposal, we’d certainly look at it.”
Bramlett said the City of Baytown would need a place for the ship.
“And that place would have the prospect of allowing us to have 300,000 to 400,000 visitors a year and they need to have the funds to build that location,” Bramlett said. “It’d be up to them to say what we have got and what we can offer and what we think it can produce. That is their job to do that. Our job is to look at the data and proposal.”
Bramlett added if the city can meet the criteria they could have a chance at getting the ship, which has participated in some of the country’s most revered battles such as the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.
“I’d be willing to listen,” Bramlett said. “Right now, it is a conversation. I have no idea what they have in mind or how they want to put it together, but I am willing to look.”
Baytown Mayor Brandon Capetillo said he likes the idea.
“I am willing to entertain a discussion with council and the officials with the Battleship Texas Foundation,” Capetillo said.
Capetillo was also cautious about the project being feasible or even viable.
“One of the driving components of relocation is related to attracting more visitors to the ship itself. Which, I can understand because of the historical significance of the ship, that is why many want it to be returned to the place where its been for 50-plus years or an alternative site that still respects the content of it being near the San Jacinto Monument,” Capetillo said.
There have been some powerful voices wanting the ship to be returned to its berth at the San Jacinto Battleground, a place it has sat since 1948, except for a brief stint in 1988 for repairs in Galveston.
“There is already a combined effort of state and local officials to return the ship back to its current location, so we need also to respect that effort,” Capetillo said.
Congressman Brian Babin has said he wants to save the ship and prevent it from going anywhere, including Galveston.
“If it has to go to Galveston I’ll be disappointed and so will my constituents, that it leaves,” Babin said recently. “It’s berthed for 71 years where it is today, and I think (its departure) might end up hurting attendance to the battlefield.”
A recent Senate Bill, SB 1511, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, is supposed to help provide $35 million for repair the ship. The bill says the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will enter into a memorandum of understanding with “an appropriate nonprofit foundation” to operate and maintain the dreadnought for 99 years. But afterward, where the ship will end up has been a cause for concern for some. Bramlett has previously stated the ship will not be returning to La Porte. But District 144 Rep. Mary Ann Perez, who represents the district that includes the battleship, said she wants it back in its original berth.
“It was a gift to the (San Jacinto) Battleground, and I strongly feel it should be returned there,” Perez has said.
Bramlett shot down rumors about the ship being transported to Alabama or Tampa Bay for repairs.
“We are working on it,” Bramlett said. “We haven’t decided where it will go yet. We are just starting to get the numbers in.”
Capetillo said if they ever did get the battleship to Baytown, they would have to consider options where and how it would be berthed carefully.
“My understand is, throughout the years, regardless of relocation, there have been many opinions of dry-docking it so that it is preserved in a better condition,” he said. “That could be an option.”
It was announced starting Monday visitation hours for the battleship are being reduced to allow staff to have full access to it as well as its artifacts ahead of the repair project. The ship will be closed to the public Monday through Thursday and open from10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Reservations made prior to June 26 for visits in July and August would be honored. For more information, visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/battleship-texas.