published Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Delta Queen operators make bid to buy her

by Brittany Cofer
  • photo
    Staff File Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press The Delta Queen, docked in the Tennessee River at Coolidge Park, could be purchased by its operators if a bid made to its current owner, Ambassadors International goes through.

Operators of the Delta Queen say they are a step closer to ensuring the historic riverboat stays in Chattanooga.

Leah Ann Ingram and her husband, Randy, who have operated the 83-year-old riverboat and hotel since August, announced Friday they have submitted a letter of intent to purchase the vessel from Seattle-based Ambassadors International Inc.

The steamboat has been for sale since 2008, but the parent company issued a call for offers this week, requesting letters of intent.

"The letter of intent is basically the bid process," said Leah Ann Ingram, adding that bids would be closed after Friday. "They'll take all of them to the board, then will make the counteroffers or offer. We don't really have a time frame at this point."

Vanessa Bloy, a spokeswoman for Ambassadors International, said the company is "currently reviewing offers from all qualified applicants," and did not say when a decision would be announced.

The Ingrams are in the process of forming a nonprofit organization, the Delta Queen Preservation Foundation, that would allow charitable contributions, historic preservation grants and other tax deductible donations to preserve the vessel.

Although Ingram said she can't discuss the price in the letter of intent that was sent to Ambassadors International, she indicated the $4.75 million asking price might go down.

"I don't think it's going to be as much about price as how quick they can sell it," she said.

If she and her husband are able to purchase the Delta Queen through a nonprofit group, she said she is unsure whether the vessel would remain docked at Coolidge Park or go down the river.

That could be good news to some who would like to see a less cluttered downtown landscape.

John Jernigan, a 14-year Chattanooga resident, said he thinks the boat is "in the wrong place" right now.

"It takes away from Coolidge Park because you can't see any of the downtown skyline," he said. "When you're in Coolidge, you want to see the mountains and the beauty of Chattanooga. I think it takes away from that."

Jernigan said he'd like to see the boat move downstream, a notion Ingram said she might consider.

"We want to be a good neighbor and a good partner with the city and bring in tax dollars like any other business would do," she said.

And part of her plan to help continue to bring in revenue is to restore the Delta Queen and have it ready to operate as a passenger vessel once again if the opportunity presents itself. In 2008, Congress failed to renew the steamboat's exemption to a law prohibiting wooden structures from carrying 50 or more passengers overnight, effectively ending its tenure as a passenger vessel.

"If the exemption did come back around, we would go after a COI (certificate of inspection) from the Coast Guard," Ingram said, adding the riverboat would also require a new boiler system and several other mechanical tweaks to ready it for excursions.

Contact staff writer Brittany Cofer at or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter at

about Brittany Cofer...

Brittany Cofer is a business reporter who has been with the Chattanooga Times Free Press since January 2010. She previously worked as a general assignment Metro reporter. In the Business department, she covers banking, retail, tourism, consumer issues and green issues. Brittany is from Conyers, Ga., and spent two years at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., before transferring to the University of Georgia. She graduated from the university’s Grady College of Journalism in December ...

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KWVeteran said...

The Delta Queen is berthed in exactly the spot it should be and adds significantly to the beauty, history, and legacy of Chattanooga. When one has lived here longer than 14 years, perhaps one has more insight into the culture of an area. Keeping the Delta Queen here in Chattanooga significantly adds to the quality of life for us today as well as for those of future generations. Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Ingram in your efforts on our behalf.

November 20, 2010 at 7:40 a.m.

Great. As long as not one penney of my tax dollars go to this eyesore that blocks my view from the park that my tax dollars support.

November 20, 2010 at 9:54 a.m.
MasterChefLen said...

If this boat stays in Chattanooga, you just know the new owners will have their hands out to the city. I'm sure Mayor Littlefield will be more than happy to oblige by raising more taxes, fees, and annexing more areas (against the will will of the people).

November 20, 2010 at 10:12 a.m.
dave said...

I like the Queen but we do not need any more TAXES!!!! We are :


November 20, 2010 at 10:44 a.m.
Beamis said...

This rickety eyesore is nothing more than a future taxpayer funded boondoggle waiting to happen. Harry Phillips and Sydney Slome brought this junky relic into our midst without the slightest clue of how to make a profit from it or integrate it into the city in a way that was meaningful or aesthetic. (A unique boutique hotel, HA-HA, what a laugh!) Now the new, would be, owners already have their hands out with a foundation and presumably more pleas from the public's purse forthcoming to save their financial hides. This wooden tinderbox needs to be mothballed and sent to a museum. It was nice visit but its high time the Delta Queen left before it becomes a burden that can't be removed without taxpayer help.

November 20, 2010 at 7:03 p.m.
fairmon said...

Well said Beamis. It is not an asset or in any way helpful to city growth. Perhaps Ms. Crutchfield can display it along with other eye sores paid for with tax money.

November 21, 2010 at 9:13 a.m.
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