Monday, October 20, 2008

Old Casino Boat Moved to Alton

Old casino boat towed to Alton
October 9, 2008 - 10:55PM

ALTON - One of the country's first floating casinos is docked east of the Clark Bridge, where it will spend the next four to six weeks being dismantled by a local scrap company and then moved 85 miles inland.

Patterson Structural Movers Inc. towed the former President Casino up the Mississippi River on Thursday from Mike's Inc. in Wood River to Azcon Scrap Co. in Alton.

David Campbell, one of the steamboat's owners, said crews would disassemble the five-story vessel into 15 sections so that it can be moved to St. Elmo, Ill., where it will be turned into an 80-room hotel, convention center and museum.

Campbell said the 300-foot long, 84-foot-wide and 65-foot-tall vessel would be placed on piers in a lake so that it would not move. He said the project is being done by a group of investors with assistance from St. Elmo."

It will be permanently moored in Tower Lake along Interstate 70," Campbell said. "It's going to be a big boost to the economy there.

"Plans are to preserve the steamboat's historical integrity, he said, and turn it into a destination place."We want to renovate it so that it's representative of the 1940s and '50s era," Campbell said.

He said initial plans were to keep the boat near the Mississippi River, but no cities showed interest in the project. St. Elmo conducted a feasibility study and determined that it would be a good project for the community, he said.

Campbell said that St. Elmo is investing $2 million in the project for infrastructure work, which will include roads, sewer, water lines, a parking lot and lighting.A group of seven people has invested in the project, and although several of them came to watch the vessel be towed to the scrap yard, they did not want to comment about the project, other than to say it's going to be a boost for St. Elmo.

"A lot of people didn't think this would ever happen," one of the investors said. "You just have to envision what it will be.

"As the boat pulled into the scrap yard, it attracted a lot of attention from onlookers. The stacks could be seen by drivers along River Heritage Parkway (Illinois Route 143), peeking above the Wood River Levee.

Many were curious as to why the boat was docked in Alton, and others simply were interested as to why so many camera crews were around.

A crew from the Discovery Channel cable television network was on site and aboard the vessel to film the move for a program called "Mega Moves.

" The crew will document the entire process, which will air following the start of the new season in January.

There also is interest in making a historical documentary about the vessel, which includes telling the history of not only the casino, but the people who entertained the masses.

"The last band to play on it was U2," Campbell said.

Other musical artists who performed aboard the venue include Louis Armstrong, Tina Turner and Arlo Guthrie.

Campbell said he purchased the vessel, which was built in 1923, about five years ago. He moved it about two years ago from Memphis, Tenn., to Mike's Inc., where it remained until Thursday.

The boat once served along the Ohio River. In 1933, it was brought to St. Louis, where it opened as a passenger steamship and later became an entertainment vessel. President Casinos in Davenport, Iowa, opened it as one of the country's first gaming vessels in 1991.

Campbell said that during the next three weeks, work would take place inside the boat. Starting in the third week, he said, crews would begin dismantling the vessel, which would be more noticeable.

"It has to be moved to St. Elmo by the end of December," Campbell said.Campbell said once the pieces are relocated, the vessel would be reassembled and renovation work would start.

"If everything goes as planned, we should be open by the end of next year," he said.

The President is Moving Up the River

The President riverboat was moved Thursday from its quarters at Illinois 3 and Illinois 143 at Alton to an area about a mile north to be taken apart. The riverboat is to then be moved to St. Elmo, where it will be reassembled and refurbished, then placed on Tower Lake along the north side of I-70 near the St. Elmo interstate interchange.
This look at the riverboat is when it is being moved through the locks at Alton on its way to where the work began.

October 10, 2008 - 9:43PM
The Telegraph

ALTON - Jeremy Patterson, who with his father owns Patterson Structural Movers Inc., tugs on a cable Friday as he walks through Mississippi River water to attach a tow cable to the rear of the former President Casino on the Alton riverfront.

The five-story boat, which will be cut into pieces and shipped to St. Elmo, Ill., to be reassembled as a hotel, convention center and museum, was stuck in the mud about 100 feet shy of its docking point at the Azcon Scrap Co. facility.

Duncan Bulling, who is directing an episode for The History Channel cable TV program called "Mega Movers," shoots video of Patterson as he and a crew of photographers document every moment of the move.

Bowers Towing's large rig had its wheels airborne as it worked in conjunction with two bulldozers and a track hoe to pull the boat free from the mud.After a morning of preparation, the attempt to free the boat failed when a cable attached to a bulldozer broke under the strain.

City Officials Hone In On Bringing Riverboat To Town

Published: October 07, 2008 03:10 pm
City officials hone in on bringing riverboat to town
Jackie Gorski, Effingham Daily News

ST. ELMO — City officials are getting closer to bringing the President riverboat to town.

The city’s attorney, Bill Austin, presented a proposal Monday he had drafted of an agreement between the city council and David Campbell of Effingham, who is co-owner of the riverboat, that outlines the responsibilities of the city and the riverboat owner in the project.

Mayor Jayson Porter told the council he wanted commissioners to look through the proposal and see if they had any questions or wanted to change anything in the proposal before it is signed. Changes, however, would have to be presented to other members of the council before being implemented into the proposal.

Once the council signs off on the agreement, it will be forwarded to Campbell, who also will have a chance to bring up possible changes. “It’s going to be hard to get a proposal everyone’s going to like,” Porter said. The city council will hold a special meeting next Monday at 7 p.m. at city hall to discuss the proposal once the council has had a chance to review it. Discussion about the possible lease or purchase of the church property where the boat will be located also was recessed until Monday’s special meeting.St. Elmo officials have been working with Campbell for about three years in order to bring the President riverboat to the city.

Campbell told the council in an Aug. 12 special meeting the funds to actually transport the boat to the city has been raised and he was still working on getting funds to restore the boat.

In other business, the board also:
• Awarded Brad Williams with the Citizen of the Year Award.
• Learned the building of the boat dock on Tower Lake has been placed on hold because of problems the city is facing regarding ownership of the land where the city was planning on placing the dock.

Jackie Gorski can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 128 or at

The President Riverboat Moves Closer to Reality

Published: September 15, 2008 12:26 pm
Riverboat moves closer to reality
Jackie GorskiEffingham Daily News

ST. ELMO — It’s been three years, and after many meetings, the effort to bring The President riverboat to St. Elmo is much closer to actually happening.During a special meeting of St. Elmo City Council Friday evening, David Campbell of Effingham, co-owner of the boat, updated the council about status of the project.

According to Campbell, the total cost of the riverboat project is about $9 million, including transportation of the boat from Alton to St. Elmo and restoration of the riverboat to the 1930s-1940s era. Campbell told the council the $4.5 million it would take to transport the boat has been raised. Campbell also said he is talking to three different banks regarding loans for the other $4.5 million. However, he said he may not know for certain about the remaining funds until after the boat has been transported to St. Elmo.Campbell did say if the loans cannot be obtained, he’ll make sure the city doesn’t take the hit, adding he will eliminate certain items now included in the project.

Currently, Campbell is planning to house about 80 hotel rooms, a convention center, a meeting room, lounge, museum and gift shops inside the riverboat. He also is looking to add some amusement-type items to the project, but said he doesn’t want to commit to anything yet because funding for those items are not secure.

The President is currently dry docked in Alton waiting for the OK to be transported, Campbell said.Before transportation can take place, Campbell’s attorney, St. Elmo’s attorney and a representative for the city’s tax increment must meet and work out the overall plan. In addition, the city must secure a land deal with Church of Christ of Tower Road for two acres of land where the boat will be located, said Mayor Jason Porter. The original option to buy agreement between the city and the church has expired. City officials also will have to determine the amount of TIF funds it can bond out for the project.

Campbell indicated, however, the clock is ticking since the boat needs to be dismantled, transported to the city and reassembled by December, which will take about two months to accomplish.Discovery Channel’s “Mega Movers” plans to film the transportation of the riverboat from Alton to St. Elmo. The show began filming in the St. Elmo area this past week, taking various location shots. The documentary-type show will feature an hourlong episode of the move, which could be aired sometime in January. Usually, the television show features two 30-minute documentary-type moves in each episode, but the move of such a large riverboat was such an unusual project the show decided to focus solely on that move in one episode. Campbell said the production is scheduled to be completed in December.

Campbell added if movement is made on the project soon, the permitting process from the state of Illinois could hold it up even more.“I’m glad the project is moving forward,” Porter said.

Jackie Gorski can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 136 or at

Friday, March 9, 2007

St. Elmo Devonian News
Published: December 28, 2006

Happy Holidays to Everyone!
We hope that everyone had a great Christmas and will have the best New Year ever! We are working to make 2007 a very good year for all of St. Elmo and the surrounding area. We thought it was time to give an update on the President Riverboat project.
Now that we have St. Elmo as a home for this wonderful historic landmark, we have been working daily with either a city official, state official, attorney, engineer, consultant, university, construction company and some private investors. Yeas, we are proud to announce that we have some local investors that are now part of the President Riverboat project. This really makes us feel like we have great local support for the project.
I am sure most of you have seen that some land clearing has begun at Tower Lake. The city engineer has been surveying the area and soon plans to map out the sewer, water, lift station and dump station locations. We and city officials have met with some economic development people and have put in motion the paperwork for some of the available grants. The city official are researching additional ways to help fund the infrastructure portion of the project.
We also have been interviewing management companies capable of properly operating a project like this. Several of these management companies have sent representatives to St. Elmo where we have met and talked about the project with them. We have narrowed our selection down to 3 companies and are awaiting final proposals. We hope to have a management company in place by the end of January 2007. This will allow us to begin planning and promoting all the things that the President Riverboat has to offer even before she is totally rebuilt here.
We now have received firm bids for the dismantling, trucking and reassembly of the President. We have shopped several contractors who are capable of of performing the needed renovations and can build the additional facilities needed for the project. We have narrowed that selection down to 3 area contractors, subject to final bids.
We are also waiting for EPA clearance, surveying to be completed, land deal to be firmed up and making sure that all the financial obligations in regard to the project are met or can be met before we proceed to bring the boat over to the St. Elmo location. We are very excited to have come this far and feel like we have a good handle on the project, thank to many local officials and people of your community that have helped in bringing the President Riverboat to St. Elmo. We know we will still encounter many bumps and curves in the road and ask to to please bear with us. We want you to be proud to have the President Riverboat as part of your community and to be able to share her with future generations for many years to come.
We cannot give any firm dates as to when the project will be in operation. We are working daily on all aspects of the project and will give you more updates as we progress. Again we want to thank you for allowing us to be a part of your great community. Let's all work together in promoting St. Elmo, Illinois as a major tourist destination. There is already talk in the wind about many good things that can happen to your area and we know that the President Riverboat is only one of the many attractions that St. Elmo will soon have to offer.
From Our Family To Yours, The Campbells
St. Elmo Devonian News
Published: October 12, 2006

Hello Dolly, It's Nice to Have You Here Where You Belong.
The President Riverboat is listed on the National Historical Register. It was built in 1924 and will be restored to around the WWII era. The boat was famous as a platform for famous jazz musicians. Louis Armstrong played on the boat many times and even lived on the boat for a while. The last famous band to play on the President was U2.
The boat is presently moored on the Mississippi River at Alton. It will be disassembled and moved to St. Elmo's Tower Lake. The boat will be set on concrete pilings at the south end of Tower Lake. A "chain" type motel will be built next to the Riverboat to provide additional rooms
Mr. Campbell wants to get the project started as soon as possible. The city council, the mayor, and Chief Thomason have worked very hard with the Campbells over the past months; and the work is just starting. A press conference will be called in the near future to make the announcement to the public.
St. Elmo Devonian News
Published: October 12, 2006

The President is Coming to St. Elmo
"This is an investment in the future of our town" stated Michael Springman after the city council voted unanimously to present a letter of intent to David and Peggy Campbell. The Campbells accepted the letter of intent and in return presented their letter of intent to the city. David Campbell stated that they had a good working relationship with the mayor and city council.
The city's letter of intent stated:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Campbell:
The city council and others have been working hard to put together an incentive package for you to make St. Elmo the permanet home of the President Riverboat. For many it has been a huge undertaking. Sometimes we thought we had it all together and the next moment something changed. Now the time has finally come that the City of St. Elmo is willing and able toproduce the following incentive package for the project: The Tower Lake property that the city owns (37 acres). This does not include the boat dock area or parking lot. Also included is 1.83 acres located at the intersection of Tower Road and Interstate Drive commonly known as the Belsen property and theproperty consisting of 1.8 acres known as the Church of Christ property. This would be a totalacerage of 40.63. Other property may become available in the near future.
The city will provide water and sewer to the project. Also provided will be six years of water with no charge up to fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) per year. Any usage over that will be assessed at the wholesale rate. There will be free sewr service for six years also. This would be a savings to you of $90,000 over the six year period.
The city will also provide parking lots and landscaping for the area. As stated in previous correspondence security will be provided as manpower dictates.
The city will work with and the public utility companies (electric, gas, phone, cable, etc.) to insure adequate services to the site.
We are sure that questions and glitches will arise as the project moves along, but with the great working relationship that we share already, we can handle whatever comes along.
We are as excited asyou are and look forward to a great future together.