The Delta Queen may "obstruct" the view from Coolidge Park, but Mayor Andy Berke has additional reasons for requesting the 86-year-old vessel be removed from the waterfront.
Over the weekend, news broke that Berke had decided the time had come for the city and the boat to part ways. The 88-room steamboat has been moored on the North Shore since 2009, where it has served as a hotel, restaurant and bar.
According to reports, Berke's office said the mayor requested the boat be moved to improve the city's "spectacular waterfront," specifically the views.
But on Monday, members of Berke's administration said that owners of the Delta Queen had fallen behind on rent payments to the city—owing at least $11,000 in unpaid fees. Travis McDonough, Berke's chief of staff, also said the boat was currently being marketed for sale by its owner, a Colorado company called Xanterra LLC.
McDonough said that if the opportunity arose Berke's office would be open to an owner who wanted to keep the steamboat in Chattanooga.
"The current owner has actively marketed it," McDonough said. "It's my belief that most of the inquiries are from people who are interested in moving it. If there are owners who are interested in keeping it here, we are certainly interested in working with them and keeping it in the city."
Stacy Richardson, Berke's senior adviser and chief policy officer, said the mayor was also concerned about the Delta Queen falling into disrepair and becoming more of a liability than an asset to the city. Still, she said the mayor would remain open to working with a buyer who wanted the boat to remain in Chattanooga.
"We're going to work with whoever it is," she said.
Hans Desai, vice president of Xanterra LLC, declined to comment on his company's plans for the Delta Queen to Nooga.com. Desai confirmed that his company was "working with [Chattanooga]" but did not offer any additional details regarding the situation.
Multiple attempts by Nooga.com to reach Leah Ann Ingram, who currently works under lease as operator of the Delta Queen, were unsuccessful.
Another factor playing into the potential departure of the Delta Queen is a possible vote in Congress that could offer an exemption to the boat for travel with more than 50 passengers. But even if the proposal were to reach the floor for a vote, McDonough expressed uncertainty in its passage.
"Whether or not Congress makes a change, no one knows if that will happen or not," he said.
Should the boat be permitted to carry passengers up and down America's rivers, the possibility exists for Chattanooga to become the vessel's home base. Richardson said the city would absolutely be open to working with an operator who planned on the city being home to the boat.
If the Delta Queen were to leave Chattanooga for good, one business leader said the economic impact would be minimal. Bob Doak, president of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that rooms aboard the Delta Queen comprised only a small percentage of the more than 11,000 available hotel rooms in the city.
"The economic impact of it going away will not be huge in terms of hotel business," Doak said.
Doak also said that the prospect of the boat using the city as a hub for future travels sounded promising, but he was also skeptical of the idea.
"I think it would be a great option for the Delta Queen and the city, but given its location and condition, it's just not fit for us right now," he said.
Berke's office has ordered the boat be moved from the waterfront by Sept. 30. Its owners will owe the city an additional $100 per day for any additional days the boat is moored.
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.