Walk in the Steps of HeroesMarch 26, 2013: Patriotism and the Rebranding of Patriots Point were the subjects of Ray Chandler’s remarks when he spoke to us on Tuesday, March 26, 2013. Mr. Chandler, a native South Carolinian and Citadel graduate, is the Chairman of the Patriots Point Development Authority. Upon graduating from The Citadel, Mr. Chandler earned his J.D. from The University of South Carolina and served in the Army JAG Corps from 1972-1976 where he handled over 500 cases. While in service, the Army awarded Chandler the “Trial Award.” He is currently in private practice in Manning, South Carolina where he is a partner with Coffey, Chandler, Kent & McKenzie, P.A. He is also a Past President of the Manning Rotary Club and was honored with the Order of the Palmetto Award, the highest civilian honor in the State.
The State created the Maritime Museum and Development Authority in 1973. The Patriots Point Development Authority Board consists of nine (9) members appointed by elected officials, including the Governor. Chandler reported that “We are a state agency with no state funds and turn a profit.” Out of the 54 naval museums in the United States, Patriots Point ranks third in the United States behind San Diego and New York.
Patriots Point has what Chandler describes as the “Three Ship Navy:” The USS Yorktown, The USS Laffey and The USS Clamagore. It takes $9.7 million to operate Patriots Point and this year they anticipate a $1 million profit. Patriots Point has a $50 million annual economic impact to the region with approximately 230,000 visitors each year, many of whom are overnight visitors. Patriots Point hosts the third largest overnight camping program in the United States. Many groups including the Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Explorers, and ROTC students stay overnight on The Yorktown. Patriots Point recently celebrated its 500,000th overnight camper. In addition to campers, there are 14,000 students enrolled in the Institute of History, Science and Technology programs annually.
In venue rentals, Patriots Point generates $450,000 annually. There are approximately 250 events each year. Patriots Point tenants include:
• Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina • Blue Marlin Fish House Restaurant
• Patriots Point Golf Links • College of Charleston Sports Complex.
Patriots Point is the home of the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum. Next week, Patriots Point will host twenty three (23) servicemen of the greatest generation for the last reunion of The USS Franklin. Two of the men are Congressional Medal of Honor recipients: one is the only Chaplain to receive the award since the Civil War. Patriots Point will honor these men “as they pay their final goodbyes to one another and dissolve their USS Franklin organization.”
When discussing the future of Patriots Point, Mr. Chandler emphasized the “Goal to be a destination, not an attraction.” He believes the three (3) keys to the future for Patriots Point are:
· “See it, hear it, touch it, live it technology:” By 2016, all attractions will be interactive, which is a $4 million investment raised by private funds. For example, visitors will be able to fly one of the flights from the Battle of the Midway. The goal is to make World War II history come to life for young people accustomed to using technology.
· Flight Academy: Students will learn and experience the wonders of flight and aviation technology with a focus on the fundamentals of Math, Engineering, and Science. Patriots Point will host the first and only Aircraft Carrier-based Flight Academy in 2014.
· The National Medal of Honor Museum at Patriots Point, which will be a 60,000 ft museum with a hotel and shops. Currently, there are 89 Medal of Honor recipients still alive. The goal is to complete the Museum during their lifetime, which means time is of the essence. This addition is expected to add 2 million visitors.
Mr. Chandler discussed the following challenges in implementing the aforementioned plans:
· Restoration and maintenance of the fleet of ships. This is very expensive, with no state funds. A nonprofit has been started to raise the required $500,000 needed on an annual basis.
· Finding the right fit for the future development of real estate at Patriots Point.
· Proving our political and social relevance to the state and the nation.
There is no one more suited to take on these challenges than Mr. Chandler and his board. He has taken it upon himself to ensure the museum endures while meeting the challenge of preserving history for future generations of Americans.
Reported by Abby Saunders, Keyway Committee