Relocation decision, wood decks, and location – this week’s CEO update

January 24, 2024

Friends,

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks, beginning at the Surface Navy Association annual conference in Washington, D.C., followed by the annual West Coast Fleet Week summit in San Diego. I am now headed to Iowa to kick off 2024, informing Iowans about the status of their ship and the museum’s role in promoting the great state of Iowa.

Last week, we sent out a note updating everyone on the previously explored relocation of the ship to the new West Harbor. There was an article written in the Daily Breeze in which the body of the content was well done and articulated the thought process behind making the decision. Unfortunately, the headline was “Plan to relocate USS IOWA south along San Pedro waterfront sinks.”

 

 

As all ship enthusiasts know, the word “sinks” is one of the last words we want to hear.

Numerous people have shared our message and this article on social media with a variety of reactions. Yes, I do read the social media reactions, and sometimes I respond. Reactions were primarily focused on our decks and our Los Angeles location. I am writing this note to provide insight into some of the decisions that we, and I, make.

WOOD DECKS OR HULL PRESERVATION?

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There is no doubt that our decks are in terrible condition, but we have chosen to prioritize hull maintenance first. In the 1980s, a large majority of IOWA’s decks were replaced with Douglas fir instead of teak. Douglas fir has a short lifespan in comparison, and once the caulking shrinks and the plugs are gone, the layer between the wood and steel is exposed. The wood becomes saturated with water, and the steel begins its process of corroding.

The result is the more recent wood warping, and the older wood turning into mush. This combination eventually leads to leaking decks.

Inventory of teak is at a low, causing the overall budget to balloon significantly. We launched campaigns to fund the decks, but unfortunately, very few donated, and with our limited budget, we faced a decision: replace the decks and neglect the hull OR maintain the hull and neglect the decks.

We chose to maintain the hull because if we neglect it, the cost can expand multifold in comparison to decks and require shipyard work, which for a ship IOWA’s size has almost no availability on the west coast. We can replace the deck at the dock in San Pedro, but we can’t recover a deteriorated hull at the dock.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Los Angeles

Since our arrival in 2012, we have led the charge in waterfront redevelopment and the future of museums. Our activities – excluding LA Fleet Week – generate more than $11.5 million in economic activity annually, support more than 7,500 veterans, and educate more than 20,000 kids.

If we were to include LA Fleet Week, it would probably easily exceed $25 million regionally. Our efforts have connected the Los Angeles community to the mission of our military and built bridges that were previously not thought possible. Los Angeles and San Pedro have embraced “their battleship,” and we have embraced “our community.”

We believe that a museum’s role is to be a community platform and resource, not a small, insular group of aficionados. We are proud of our community and honored to be part of a significant positive shift in the future of San Pedro. I believe that there is no better test case for the future of museums than our success since 2012.

All of us face difficult decisions throughout our lives, and each of us has found ways to deal with and address this responsibility. When facing the decision about the relocation, we undertook a multi-step process that was not focused on our personal opinions but on doing the right thing for the community, crew, supporters, and ultimately the ship.

The following steps were utilized:

    • In October and November, Mike Getscher had several meetings to gain an understanding of all conditions that exist at the new location and review known issues with other ships throughout the world. In doing so, he found three major issues: depth of the water, safe clearance, and sufficient capacity. The cost to fix these issues significantly increased the budget. Mike turned that information over to me.
    • In December, I reviewed the information Mike submitted and had several additional discussions to gain more insight. The budget had grown to a level that was no longer palatable for utilizing public funds, and based on numerous prior conversations, donors were highly unlikely to support the overage estimated at more than $15 million. Dredging and infrastructure are generally unappealing donor campaigns, as we have seen with the limited support of fixing our wood decks.
    • I created a “Pros and Cons” spreadsheet to lay out the positives and negatives of staying and relocating. I spent about two weeks assembling this spreadsheet, thinking it through, and discussing it with board members, advisors, and friends before reaching my conclusion. I presented this information to our executive committee to learn their opinions, and it was decided that remaining where we were was the best path forward when facing the circumstances.

 

I have been asked if I am happy or sad about the decision, and I can say I am either. There are positives and negatives to both locations, and my responsibility is to make the best possible choice with the information available. I can’t allow my personal emotions or feelings to get in the way of this decision, as ultimately, I have an obligation to the community, crew, supporters, and the ship. This is the responsibility I accepted when becoming the President & CEO of a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. It isn’t my ship; it is the community’s and the nation’s ship, and I take my role and responsibility in safeguarding this seriously.

My deepest appreciation for your support, and please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments. I look forward to sharing with you our plans for our existing location in the coming weeks.

If you would like to support the replacement of our wood decks or hull preservation, you can do so by clicking the button below.

 
Jonathan Williams
President & CEO
 
 
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