PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The effort to bring the retired aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy to Rhode Island for use as a museum has passed another hurdle with the town council in Middletown voting to support the project in concept.
Frank Lennon, president of the nonprofit Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame, said the 6-1 vote Tuesday doesn't commit the town to anything. But he said it's an important show of local support to the Navy, which will ultimately decide whether the group can have the ship. The Hall of Fame has been working since 2010 to bring the aircraft carrier to the state.
He said the project would be good news for Rhode Island.
"This is the antidote to 38 Studios," he said, referring to the failed $75 million state loan guarantee to former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's video game company. "This is a potential major economic engine that's going to have positive economic impact. It's going to create jobs, and it's not going to cost the state any money."
He said they hope to use it not just as a museum but also as a family attraction, education resource and job training center.
The USS JFK, known as Big John, was the last conventionally powered aircraft carrier built by the Navy and once carried 4,600 crew members and 70 combat aircraft. It was built in Virginia and christened in 1967 by Kennedy's 9-year-old daughter, Caroline. It was active in both Iraq wars and the war in Afghanistan and decommissioned in 2007. The 1,050-foot ship is being kept in Philadelphia.
Kennedy did his PT Boat training at Naval Station Newport during World War II, was married in Newport in 1953 to Jacqueline Bouvier and spent so much time during his presidency at her childhood home in Newport, Hammersmith Farm, that it became known as the Summer White House.
Lennon said they hope to dock the ship on federal land at the naval station. He said they hope to put it at the Navy's northernmost pier, which would allow them to move the fence line and put it on land accessible to the general public. That way, visitors to the ship would not have to go through the strict security of the Navy base.
Lennon said they have raised $10.5 million in pledges but would likely need $25 million to $35 million to pay for the project. Now that the local community has chimed in with its support, they are hopeful they can move forward with more fundraising, he said. The project could be open in two to three years, he said.
The General Assembly this year passed a resolution in support of the project, and the group received a letter of support last month from a onetime commander in chief, former President George H.W. Bush.
"The combination of Rhode Island's significant Navy history and President Kennedy's connections to Newport make Narragansett Bay a particularly fitting site for this initiative," Bush wrote.
- Politics & Government
- Rhode Island
- Frank Lennon
- aircraft carrier