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Tall Ships Could Return to Tacoma

Tall ships could once again fill Commencement Bay. A group of interested individuals is floating the idea of bringing the Tall Ships Festival back to Tacoma for a third time.

In 2005 the historic tall ships came from far and wide to sail the waters of Commencement Bay, and offer maritime experiences to somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 people. In 2008 they returned. Both years Tacoma won the "Port of the Year" award over five other west coast ports, but the ships haven't returned since. In 2011 Tacoma declined the opportunity to participate again, due to budget contraints.

When Tall Ships Tacoma closed up shop in 2010, they left things open-ended.

Tacoma Tall Ships as an organization will be closing its doors on September 30, 2010. The organization regrets that the Tall Ships will not be returning in 2011 but we hope that there will be a way for them to return at a later date. 

The group now looking for a way to return the ships to Commencement Bay includes representatives from the City Council, Port of Tacoma, Pierce County, Metro Parks, Travel Tacoma, Foss Waterway Seaport, and Foss Waterway Development Authority. The group is are looking ahead to July or August of 2017, and they're asking the City whether or not it would throw support behind the event.

No formal proposal has been made at this point, but in a discussion with the City Council's Economic Development Committee this week, the discussion included an ask for support from the City, though not necessarily cash support. The big event is a logistical challenge, and will require extensive security, as well as the regular considerations of road closures, garbage pickup, etc.

Another option on the table is the possibility of offering low-cost tickets for direct access to the ships, and possibly a closed-off portion of Dock Street. That's not something that was done for the two previous festivals, but ticket sales could help cover some of the cost of the event. In 2008, according to The News Tribune, the Tall Ships Festival ended up in debt by about $500,000. That debt has been resolved, but no one wants to end up in that situation again.

There will be more discussion ahead for the City Council, a discussion the ad hoc group of Tall Ships supporters would like to see lead to official Council support for the return of the event.

Would you support it?


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