FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Frank Lennon
SARATOGA PROJECT TO MOVE HEADQUARTERS TO NORTH KINGSTOWN
Post Road location will house offices, workshop, store and new mini-museum
The Foundation, which has been working to develop a museum, education center and family attraction at Quonset/Davisville, will take over the former Wickford Laundry building at 6854 Post Road. The building is owned by DRRB LLC, whose principals, Russ Barrie and Dave Radick, run a local business specializing in the installation and repair of industrial boilers and hydraulic equipment.
"We expect to begin work immediately on the 6,000-square-foot building," said John Gibbons, who will manage the renovation and relocation project. "We should be ready to move some administrative functions into the space by April 1," he said.
Office and meeting space, along with a volunteer workshop, will be the first priorities. Water damage from a fire last May at the Arctic Mill in West Warwick, combined with the demolition of buildings at Quonset used for storage, put a severe strain on the group's operation. "We now have people working in four locations, and our collections and artifacts are spread out over seven sites," explained Gibbons.
"This move demonstrates our renewed commitment to the Town of North Kingstown, which has supported the Saratoga project for years,'' said Foundation President Frank Lennon.
North Kingstown Town Council President Liz Dolan concurs. "One of the major goals of the North Kingstown Comprehensive Plan is to revitalize Post Road retail businesses," Dolan points out. "Having a major tourist attraction drawing thousands of year-round visitors to Quonset will go a long way toward achieving that goal.
"Actions speak louder than words," she concluded. "I applaud the Foundation for moving to Post Road, revitalizing a dormant property and contributing to the local economy."
According to Lennon, that contribution will include the labor and materials needed to renovate the building, as well the new jobs that will be created by the move.
"Basically we're taking over a shell building," Gibbons said. "All the improvements are on us. We're putting out a call for volunteers with or without construction experience to help out. We also seek donations of building supplies and materials, store fixtures such as display cases, and also office equipment.''
"We'll be looking to hire an office administrator and bookkeeper almost right away," Lennon added. "Customer service, restoration and museum-related jobs will follow. Some of the work will also relate to our Providence operation."
He was referring to the Russian Submarine Museum owned and operated by the USS Saratoga Museum Foundation, Inc.
Lennon explained why the Saratoga effort has had a lower profile in South County for the past two years. "Our effort was slowed when Saratoga fell victim to former Governor Almond's container port project," he observed.
In December 2001 Governor Almond and the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation board of directors slammed the door on Saratoga by failing to endorse an extension recommended by the Quonset board for the project's Carrier Pier access agreement.
As a result, the Foundation was forced to diversify in order to survive. Re-energized by the setback, and encouraged by then-candidate Don Carcieri and others, the Foundation was able to take delivery of a multi-million dollar asset: the Soviet cruise missile submarine Juliett 484, used in the making of the Harrison Ford movie "K-19: The Widowmaker".
The Russian sub's last mission was not without irony. Throughout 2002, Juliett 484 worked to help save the American supercarrier she once targeted, awaiting the arrival of a new administration that would understand the benefits the Saratoga vision offers to Rhode Island.
The sub is now open to the public at Collier Point Park in Providence, and is proving to be one of the East Coast's most popular new naval tourist attractions. Juliett 484 has already hosted more than 20,000 residents, visitors, veterans and school children from more than 35 states and a number of foreign countries. It has generated cash flow and very favorable media coverage while proving the ability of the Foundation to manage and run an historic naval vessel as a museum.
The decision to expand the operation in North Kingstown is the latest in a series of events that mark the Foundation's growing vitality.
Last summer, Governor Don Carcieri made good on a campaign promise and held a Saratoga fundraising event at his Saunderstown home. He has since directed his staff to coordinate the negotiations between the EDC and Saratoga leadership in an effort to develop a win/win situation for everyone at Quonset/Davisville.
"We have promised the Governor to update our studies and provide a new plan for the Davisville location by June 1," said Lennon. "Hopefully, that new information will provide him the ammunition he needs to move forward with the project."
By June 1 the Foundation's Post Road operation should also be open to the public, featuring the mini-museum and gift shop now at the Rhode Island Mall.
"This new facility should please everyone in North Kingstown and Washington County," said North Kingstown Town Council member Dale Grogan. "It puts the Saratoga project right where it should be...smack dab in the middle of North Kingstown, in a high-traffic, high-visibility location."
Council member John Patterson agreed. "Since North Kingstown is the potential host community for this Quonset/Davisville development, local residents make up a large percentage of Saratoga's membership, donor base and volunteer support." Patterson concluded, "This move makes a lot of sense."
Echoing the same theme, Council member Anthony Miccolis added, "I, too, am excited that Saratoga's new headquarters will be on Post Road. This is an important step forward for the museum, as it establishes a highly visible location and an ongoing presence in the community, which will encourage and grow that base of support. "
Moving the administrative offices, gift shop and mini-museum to Post Road will ease the strain on storage space which has plagued the Saratoga effort for the past three years. "We've had to turn down donations of artifacts and equipment because we haven't had any place to put them," said Bill Sheridan, the project's Deputy Director. "This will free up space for archival storage and related work at the Arctic Mill and elsewhere," he concluded.
The workshop at Post Road will be large enough to enable volunteers to begin restoration work on the 39-foot long Paramount Pictures model of the battleship USS Nevada of Pearl Harbor fame.
"We've never had a workshop where volunteers good with their hands could comfortably work on an ongoing basis," said project manager Bob Albee. "We have a number of worthwhile projects we can now get off the ground, such as the restoration of the 15-foot long Textron/Bell Helicopter Osprey wind tunnel model loaned to us by the Marine Corps," added Albee.
Volunteers and others who want to get involved should call the Foundation at (401) 521-3600 to learn more.
"Saratoga's many friends and supporters will be very pleased with this move," concluded Council member Robin Porter. "This is a big step forward for Saratoga and for the Town.
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