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Year after announcing plans to dry-dock, USS Kidd facing pandemic-fueled fundraising trouble

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BATON ROUGE - A year ago the U.S.S. Kidd announced years-long plans to drydock the World War 2 ship for necessary repairs. Now, the effort is being made somewhat harder due to COVID-19.

When Gov. John Bel Edwards issued his stay-at-home order in March 2020, the ship and museum closed. Staff members expected it to be a temporary pause in operation.

"We thought we would be back open within two or three weeks, it was just going to be a limited time period," executive director, Rosehn Gipe said. "It ended up being two months closed to the public."

The Kidd reopened in May, but business has remained slow.

"Visitation still hasn't returned back to 2019 figures," Gipe said. "The riverboats haven't returned."

With below-average business, the ship's staff was able to do some work onboard, like painting and deck work, which would have been difficult while dodging tourists. Progress was also made on the effort to prepare the nearly 80-year-old ship to be dry-docked in the future for much-needed repairs.

"We have been able to almost complete a hull survey, which is necessary for us to determine exactly what kind of work we need to do once we go to drydock," Gipe said.

Gipe says it is a daily task of scanning, surveying, and checking inside and outside of the ship for more wear and tear or additional spots that are in need of repair.

While the pandemic has likely extended the timeline for dry-docking the ship slightly, Gipe believes the biggest impact will be felt when trying to raise the money needed for the project.

"In a lot of ways we took advantage of the closure," Gipe said. "Unfortunately, it really affected our bottom line."

As school field trips to the ship were canceled, fewer admission tickets were sold and a fraction of souvenirs were purchased, Gipe says the focus on fundraising now shifts to short-term necessities and that the Kidd will have to right the ship that is COVID-19, as it continues the years-long effort to restore the ship and preserve its longterm health.

"Right now instead of being able to raise money and bank it for the future, we're having to raise money just so we can get to the end of the year," Gipe said.

Once the hull survey is complete, staff will work with engineers to finalize the work to be completed, find a suitable shipyard and put a final price tag on the project.

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