A 99-year land lease worth more than $300 million could turn Patriots Point into a major East Coast destination for patriotism and ensure the sustainment of the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum at no future cost to the state.The proposed deal is a major part of a comprehensive plan developed by the Patriots Point Development Authority (PPDA) Board calling for investments in new exhibits, technology and education – all of which are expected to boost revenue and generate more than 300,000 paid visitors a year.
The 61-acre lease between Patriots Point and Charleston developer Bennett Hospitality will govern the construction of a resort hotel and a 4,000-seat amphitheater. It also calls for shops, restaurants and office space. If approved by the state, construction could begin in a few years.
Mac Burdette, executive director of Patriots Point, said the PPDA Board will use the additional $3 million of annual lease revenue to restore the USS Yorktown and fund the ongoing maintenance required of the museum’s ships and piers.
“Our Board has spent a long time examining this lease, and we are confident that it will be a tremendous economic stimulus for Mount Pleasant, Charleston and the entire state,” said Burdette. “This project, paired with the National Medal of Honor Museum, will make Patriots Point a destination. We will no longer have to worry about finding money to repair and maintain our vessels.”
Bringing History to Life
In the past few years, museum staff has focused on improving exhibits so they are more of an immersive experience than a static display. The Cold War Experience opened a few months ago in the Combat Information Center (CIC) on the USS Laffey – one of three warships on display at the museum.
As visitors enter the CIC, lights dim, sonar machines ding, and two holographic images of sailors appear. The CIC is described by veterans as the heart of the destroyer and was critical to missions during the decades-long Cold War. During an eight-minute production the holograms guide guests through an intense run-in with a Soviet submarine; one wrong move could spark a third world war.
Similar technology is also being used in the museum’s three-acre Vietnam Experience (VE). Through the use of holograms, surround sound, touch screen kiosks and an array of aircraft, visitors are immersed in the history of the war. The Charleston V.A. Medical Center even uses the realistic VE for treatment of Vietnam veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Use of cutting-edge technology is also improving the way Patriots Point connects with schools around the state to teach critical reading, history, science and math skills. Chances are, if you have a fifth-grader in the tri-county area, they’ll soon visit Patriots Point on a field trip, if they haven’t already.