I have a proposal to save the rotting hulk of the United States.
No, no, I don’t mean the country. I mean the S.S. United States, that glorious liner that's decaying slowly on Pier 82 off Columbus Boulevard, where it's been dry-docked for over a decade. It was the fastest ocean liner ever built, and although it was never used for military purposes, it was capable of transporting 14,000 troops per trip and traveling up to 10,000 miles non-stop. The ship's history is Pennsylvania's history, made of steel from Coatesville, designed by Philadelphia native Francis Gibbs, and included on the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places. Nothing has been done to restore this national treasure, though and it may be sold for scrap.
Butit looks like the state is determined to shove casinos down our throats, and I say make lemonade from lemons. Sell the ship to Foxwoods and open it as a casino!
One of the main beefs with the proposed new casinos has been location. I used to work in Fishtown and drove past the Sugarhouse site almost every day and saw the potential problems: too close to residential neighborhoods, too small streets, too little parking and too far from highway access. The original Foxwoods site, between Tasker and Reed, had were similar problems but that's moot at this point. And the awful designs! Sugarhouse looks like it took design cues from Philadelphia International Airport, while Foxwoods' proposal looks like what happens when an architect used to designing Wal-Marts eats too many magic mushrooms.
It's probably a little too late to stop construction on Sugarhouse, but Foxwoods is a different story. Before they spend money on another ugly-ass building, why not buy the United States?
It isn't really near a neighborhood, cut off by both the Ikea Plaza and the Snider Shopping Plaza. It's convenient to both interstates and accessible by Packer and Pattison avenues -- both of which travel through uninhabited industrial areas and already serve the stadiums. Furthermore, since the ship was originally a luxury liner, it has all sorts of amenities: a ballroom, well-appointed guest rooms, a promenade deck, and a swimming pool. Heck you could probably put in a theater and even a maritime museum on top of the table games and slots. That would be the corporate nod to community relations and support for the arts.
I called up the S.S. United States Conservancy, an advocacy group dedicated to protecting and preserving the ship, expecting that my idea would be shot down with extreme prejudice. To my surprise, the person I spoke to, Jeff Henry, was open to the suggestion. "We just want to see something happen," he said. "We want to work with the owners to ensure a good future for the ship. Any kind of productive use is welcome." Henry explained that the interior of the ship is kind of a blank slate at this point, although the ship's power plant is still in working order. There's still potential.
Rehabbing and maintaining the S.S. United States would be a big task: that means jobs for a city hard-hit by a struggling economy. Done right, the ship would be so much more than a craptastic slots parlor: it could be a real destination.
To me, it's just common sense: someone's gotta pony up the money to save the ship from the scrap, Foxwoods needs a place to put their casino now that the last two sites have been rejected, and since the city and state are determined to foist these things on us, we might as well make the best of it. The S.S. United States Casino: a unique metaphor for USA in the 21st century: where suckers go to lose all their money chasing after get rich schemes, never realizing that the house always wins.
Cut and run
Questions About Renaissance Schools
Are PA Democrats Blowing It?
Ed Rendell's Giant Sucking Sound
Time to Plan Your Urban Garden
Is Arlen Specter Even Trying?
Arlen Specter's Phony Justice