By CAROL COMEGNO
Battleship museum officials Tuesday declared the ship's first operational year a success.
Officials created the Foundation for the Battleship New Jersey, a fund-raising arm to help it build a solid financial future.
About 225,000 visitors have toured the ship since it opened on Oct. 15, 2001, according to the nonprofit Home Port Alliance, which operates the waterfront Battleship USS New Jersey Memorial and Museum. Alliance members are pleased with that number, but they plan to increase visits for next year. They have restructured the management of the museum to improve daily operations.
"We are pleased to report we are on the right course. The first year has been a success and we are looking forward to many more successful years here in Camden with the establishment of this foundation," said Alliance co- chairman Patricia Jones during a first anniversary celebration aboard the ship.
The battleship museum foundation will seek corporate and government grants and organize fund-raising events to increase revenue for operations. The foundation's work is expected to augment earnings from museum admissions and special events.
"Part of our commitment is to provide a positive economic impact on the waterfront and we have done that," said retired Rear Adm. Thomas Seigenthaler of Haddonfield. He will be chairman of the foundation and continue in his role as executive vice president of the museum.
"This has been a rewarding and fun year in which we have seen the ship (elicit) from visitors every emotion from tears to laughter."
Seigenthaler and others lauded the more than 500 volunteers who have devoted 170,000 hours to restoring the ship and giving visitors guided tours .
The Alliance changed the titles of several museum supervisors Tuesday. Troy Collins of Voorhees is now the president and chief executive officer for the museum. He had been chief operating officer.
Two vice presidents were named: Jack Shaw of Cherry Hill for operations, Robert Farrell of Mount Laurel for finance and human resources. Two more vice president positions created for marketing and membership will be filled later.
Collins said he expects the ship to meet its projected $4. 4 million budget this year. The museum plans to attract a minimum of 250,000 visitors next year.
The Battleship New Jersey, which is docked at a new pier in the Delaware River near the New Jersey State Aquarium, was a $20 million restoration and construction project.
"The year went so fast. The volunteers are always upgrading and making the ship look better all the time. I'm enjoying this, learning more every day and meeting such interesting visitors," said volunteer tour guide John Tine, 75, of Palmyra, a retired engineer.
Carrie and Greg Nickelson of Mannford, Okla., and their sons sang happy birthday and ate cake during their tour.
"It's a lot better than the other one we saw (the USS Texas) because it's a lot of bigger," said their 7-year- old, Jacob.
Reach Carol Comegno at (609) 267-9486 or e-mail email@example.com