Ship museum may help spur area tourism
By JUDITH LUCAS
Camden, a tourist destination?
Absolutely, says the head of a Philadelphia firm that has helped plan urban entertainment centers across the country.
With a battleship museum and other new attractions already slated for the Waterfront, a growing partnership between Camden and Philadelphia should vault the region into a major tourist hub, said Michael S. Rubin, president of MRA International.
Consider the coming attractions: the USS New Jersey museum, a minor league baseball stadium, a marina and an aerial tram linking Camden to Philadelphia's Penn's Landing and all its attractions.
The baseball stadium alone could attract several hundred thousand fans a season to the Waterfront, with many likely to revisit current attractions.
A ferry or tram (expected to be completed in 2002) will effortlessly connect visitors to Philadelphia and its attractions, like the Liberty Bell.
"This will be unique in the country," Rubin said. ``People will go from the battleship to the Aquarium to the E-Centre, cross the Delaware by tram or ferry and go over to Penn's Landing. It will be a lot of fun to go back and forth.
``We will attract people from a 100-mile area," Rubin said. will come for a full day's trip."
Rubin said he believes the tourist draw will be strong enough to get private investors interested in building restaurants, offices, even residential developments.
Getting the battleship was key, said Meryl Levitz, president and chief executive of Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporations.
"People love these ships," Levitz said. "It's a guy thing. Whenever there is a signature ship, it brings people out. Having wonderful attractions on both sides of the river is great.
"Tourists are attracted by the fact that there is one river and two states," Levitz said. "It's a reason to come. It's also a reason to stay. The ship gives a good completeness.''
Michael I. Crowther, the Aquarium's president and chief executive, said the city and Waterfront developers must still come up with even more attractions.
"The ship is going to broaden the appeal of the Waterfront beyond people who are just interested in the Aquarium," he said. "The next phase is the challenge. We have to make sure the museum is really engaging and a great visitor experience. We have to fulfill and exceed people's expectations.''
If everything works, Crowther envisions the Camden-Philadelphia waterfront overshadowing even Baltimore's popular harbor area, with its aquarium, historic vessels, museums, ballparks and retail and dining complexes.