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Marina, Cruise Dock Could Replace Lost Disney Resort : Harbor: Officials waste no time in announcing alternate proposal to take the sting out of Disney's decision to scuttle its ocean theme park.

December 15, 1991|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Officials of the port and city of Long Beach are seriously discussing the possibility of constructing a multimillion-dollar marina and five-boat passenger cruise terminal near the Queen Mary in the wake of the Walt Disney Co.'s decision to scuttle plans for a major theme park at the site.

A new cruise terminal could take some of the sting out of Disney's decision to abandon the $3-billion resort and park that city officials had hoped would bring a wealth of tax dollars and 13 million tourists a year to Long Beach. A new terminal would attract as many as a half-million new tourists a year, Long Beach Mayor Ernie Kell said.

"Most of them would spend a few days in the city and get to know us. This would help the local merchants and hotel owners," Kell said, adding that he has been discussing the project with port officials for about three months. "We have some drawings . . . . It's a viable (plan). I like the idea."

Still unclear is the extent to which Disney would be involved in the project. The company holds a lease on 55 acres of port land, including the Spruce Goose and Queen Mary, which it must terminate or extend by March 18.

Late last week, Disney seemed to be leaning toward hanging on to the property. Officials said the entertainment giant was interested in maintaining a presence in Long Beach, but would not specify what alternatives are being considered.

"We don't want to terminate," said David Malmuth, a vice president with the Disney Development Co. "What we want to do is sit down with the city and the port to talk about what kind of options we have. We have a tremendous respect for the city; we want to look at what it hopes to accomplish with the cruise ship terminal and how that might fit into an overall master plan which would include our property."

Steve Dillenbeck, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said the port has developed several schematic drawings showing the marina and cruise ship terminal at various locations at or near Queensway Bay, where the Queen Mary now sits. If Disney decides to terminate its lease, port officials say, the Queen Mary would likely be moved to make way for the cruise ship terminal. Otherwise, the terminal would be placed at another location, probably to the south of the Queen Mary's berth.

"We have a desire and we think there is a need for a new cruise terminal," Dillenbeck said.

Virtually all the plans show the project containing slips for 1,000 to 3,000 small boats and docks for up to five cruise ships. Dillenbeck estimated that the marina would cost about $20 million to build and the cruise terminal as much as $70 million, all of which would come out of port revenues.

While the idea of a cruise terminal has been discussed for years, officials said, it gained momentum in recent months as evidence mounted that Disney was backing away from its proposed DisneySea resort. Disney announced last week that it would build its next West Coast theme park in Anaheim, ending more than a year of negotiations in Long Beach.

According to Dillenbeck, the plan is on hold for at least a month while port and city officials confer with Disney representatives regarding the company's intentions. Once they become clear, he said, construction could take about two years.

One problem that will have to be resolved if Disney retains its lease, city officials say, is how to make the Queen Mary pay for itself. After a period of profitability under the Wrather Corp., the ship--which has been in the city since 1967--has lost money under Disney management, city officials said.

But Kell is hopeful that trend can be reversed. "I think it's a viable attraction and a symbol for the city," he said. "It's a landmark and it can be returned to a profitability mode, perhaps with some (development.)"

Whatever the ship's future, however, the idea of a terminal for cruise ships is generating some positive responses in the city.

"I would like very much to see us move forward and look into building the cruise terminal," Harbor Commissioner David Hauser said. "I think that would be a beautiful thing."

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