Sunday, January 08, 2006

 

Battleship to reopen Monday

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Al.com
By George Werneth
January 06, 2006

Battleship Memorial Park -- closed for more than four months because of extensive damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina -- will reopen at 9 a.m. Monday, with a ceremony featuring the "rechristening" of the USS Alabama, officials said Thursday.

"There will be free admission until noon and free parking all day," said Karen Conner, director of sales and marketing for the park on the Causeway.

Admission is normally $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-11 and free for children under age 6. Admission will be half price Monday from noon until the park closes at 4 p.m.

Conner said the park's hours in the past have been from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily but will be shortened temporarily from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., pending further repairs.

Monday will mark the 41st anniversary of the opening of the park and the 59th anniversary of the decommissioning of the battleship Alabama, which earned nine battle stars in World War II.

The 680-foot-long warship -- the centerpiece of the park -- was left listing noticeably at 8 degrees to the port side by Katrina's storm surge. Conner said the list has been reduced to about 3 degrees to port and is safe for tours by the public. She said work will continue until the ship is level.

She said the ceremony's featured speaker will be U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, and the congressman's wife, Janeé, will perform the symbolic rechristening of the battleship, involving the breaking of a bottle of champagne over the bow.

The battleship was originally christened by the late Henrietta Hill, wife of the late U.S. Sen. Lister Hill, D-Montgomery, on Feb. 16, 1942, just prior to launching, records show. The event took place in the Norfolk Navy Yard at Portsmouth, Va.

Katrina wreaked more than $4 million in damage on the park Aug. 29 when it struck the central Gulf Coast, Conner said. Hardest hit was the Aircraft Pavilion, which was left in a shambles and remains closed. There was extensive damage to vintage military aircraft housed in the pavilion, but most are expected to be restored.

Both the USS Alabama and the 311-foot-long World War II submarine USS Drum will be open for tours. There was little, if any, damage to the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial at the park, officials have reported.

The park on Mobile Bay has been raked by numerous hurricanes since it opened Jan. 9, 1965, but Conner said Katrina caused the worst damage in its history. She said Hurricane Frederic -- a strong Category 3 hurricane that slammed directly into the Alabama coast on Sept. 12, 1979 -- closed the park for less than 30 days.


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