Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Suisun hears entertainment boat proposals

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Two entertainment boat captains, both with experience running boats on Lake Tahoe, told the Suisun City Council Tuesday they both want to bring a river boat to the Old Town waterfront.

Neither asked for city help outside of a fair hearing on their business plans for how they will run the business and what they will offer in the form of cruises, dining and entertainment.

While neither mentioned having gambling on their boats, at least one city councilman, Sam Derting, said he was fine with that idea.

One proposal was born two years ago when the Mark Wirth, the son of an Old Town business owner, told the Business Improvement District he was looking to bring an entertainment boat to Suisun City.

That plan envisioned bringing in a boat - about 70 feet long with a bar and a restaurant - to offer tours to areas such as Grizzly Island and the Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay.

Wirth presented the same idea Tuesday night, saying it would be like the vessel he now pilots on Lake Tahoe "which would work well here."

Daniel Thiemann of Sacramento Steam Navigation said he wanted to bring a 600-passenger Mississippi River-style paddleboat to the waterfront for cruises and dining.

Both men said they had financial backers who were wanted to "help put Suisun City on the map," according to Wirth.

The council commented favorably on the idea, but stated the two captains would have to present a solid business plan that would ensure whichever boat gets here would be a success.

"Suisun City can't afford another failure," said Mayor Jim Spering, alluding to the past failed efforts to get an entertainment boat to stay in Suisun City. "We want to ensure it will be viable and that it will fit in."

The last boat to tie up in Suisun City was the paddleboat Grand Romance, which sailed to Suisun City from its Napa River anchorage in 1998 for a short stay and returned the following year.

Suisun City's leaders previously tried to bring in a gambling boat, but that effort was unsuccessful. Voters approved the gambling, but a boat didn't materialize.

The city entered talks with the Riverboat Entertainment Company in 1996 in an attempt to bring the historic Delta King riverboat from its Old Town Sacramento berth, but that idea foundered.

The Grand Romance stayed in Suisun City on a month-to-month contract while city leaders hoped they finally had a waterfront attraction that gave the Old Town a unique draw.

The Grand Romance didn't prove to be the attraction the city had hoped for and it sailed out of the slough for the last time in late 1999.

It will now be up to Thiemann and Wirth to come forward with a business plan. Just when that will happen is not certain.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

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