WILMINGTON -- A battle is brewing over a plan to bring the USS Kitty Hawk to the Port City. New Hanover County commissioners and city leaders support the idea. But not everyone is onboard with the idea of an aircraft carrier joining our battle ship. Local leaders met Monday to discuss the idea of bringing the aircraft carrier to Wilmington in 2012. But critics argue the ship will be a drain on the city's resources and infrastructure. Local leaders at the city and county level say the USS Kitty Hawk belongs in North Carolina, which is why they're pushing hard to make Wilmington it's final resting place. Military historian Wilbur Jones is working with local officials on the idea. The first major hurdle is finding a spot to park the massive aircraft carrier. At nearly 1.5 times longer than the Battleship North Carolina it's too big to fit through the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. The other issue is money. Jones said the project would largely be funded through private donations. Jones said, "The ship will have to be towed from Bremmerton, Washington around Cape Horn, South America and the early estimate would be about $7 million to tow it." Capt. David Scheu is in charge of the Battleship North Carolina. Even if the $7 million towing fee is privately funded, he sees the Kitty Hawk as a major financial burden for the area. Capt. Scheu "If you look at the infrastructure requirements, there is no infrastructure here to support such a thing." Scheu says berthing requirements, building a pier and ship maintenance are multi-million dollar expenses. Then there's the challenge of bringing in visitors. He says the battleship drew nearly 200,000 visitors last year. He estimates the Kitty Hawk would need to bring in between 300,000 and 350,000 visitors a year just to break even. But Jones says there is a plan. "The carrier Kitty Hawk, which will have been in service for 47 years, we figure will have about 40,000 people who have served in the air group or in ship's company -- look at all the visitors, the reunions, and potential fundraising we'd be able to get for that 40,000," Jones said. "That's not going to do it," Scheu said. "That's nice, that you've got three generations of crew members, but that's still not a big enough base." After the Kitty Hawk ends its service in November of 2008 the ship will be prepared to be used as a museum. The Navy will then make it available for donation to communities. At the earliest that will happen in 2012.
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