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Maritime museum aims to emerge in Dallas

Written by , published June 11, 2013

Dallas may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of seafaring activities, but backers of the proposed Dallas Maritime Museum say the city would be a fitting host for the facility.

The Dallas Maritime Museum Foundation is organizing a fundraising effort to build the $81 million project, says John Shellene, executive director. The foundation recently announced that it had secured a site for the museum—3½ acres on South Riverfront Boulevard along the Trinity River levee. The site is next to one of several lakes the City of Dallas plans to dredge as part of its long-term overhaul of the Trinity River corridor.

Shellene says the maritime museum would be a good fit for Dallas partly because the entire project is motivated by the U.S. Navy’s offer to hand over the USS Dallas, a nuclear-powered submarine, when it decommissions the attack vessel next year. The USS Dallas was commissioned in 1981 and is best known for its role in Tom Clancy’s novel Hunt for Red October. The Navy first approached the vessel’s namesake city in 2010, prompting Dallas to reach out to some Navy veterans, who then formed the museum foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Shellene says.

“North Texas, the Metroplex, is the largest recruiting ground for our maritime services, including the Navy, of the entire country,” Shellene says. “So there’s a lot of interest here and a lot of history here when it comes to maritime services, which a lot of people don’t know about. We’re excited to be a catalyst for making that known and having that impact.”

The foundation’s plans call for a 30,000-square-foot, three-story museum. The USS Dallas would be exhibited in dry-dock, hanging over the water of the yet-to-be-developed lake, Shellene says. The foundation is also negotiating to bring two other vessels to Dallas, but details haven’t been released yet.

The schedule for the proposed museum revolves around the decommissioning of the USS Dallas, Shellene says. The foundation hopes to open the museum in 2017 or 2018, once the submarine is decommissioned, stripped of its classified components and nuclear reactor, and then rebuilt as an intact submarine.

“The museum itself will take 18 months to construct,” Shellene says. “So in essence we’ll break ground on the museum in three years and then have the museum and submarine and other vessels in place for public viewing in 4½ years.”

In the meantime, it's all about money.

“We are putting together our capital campaign committee and starting to look for major lead gifts, which we hope to identify this summer,” Shellene says. “Then we’ll launch an individual campaign and large gift campaign beginning in the fall.”

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Photos courtesy of Dallas Maritime Museum Foundation

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