A bill awaiting a vote in a Missouri Senate Committee would fund construction and operation of a new museum in Jefferson City all about the steamboat era in Missouri.
Bill sponsor, Sen. Mike Bernskoetter of Jefferson City, says the funds should come from fees collected from casinos for each person who boards gambling riverboats because that is where today’s gaming industry initially gained steam in Missouri. In the year 2000, state law was changed to allow gambling boats to stay docked.
The bill would increase the fee from $2.00 to $3.00, which is shared among the communities where casinos are docked, the Missouri Veterans Commission and the state.
The bill would fund moving the Arabia Steamboat Museum and its contents from Kansas City to Jefferson City.
The lease runs out on the Kansas City building in 2026 and the Pittsburgh, Pa., company that built the riverboat Arabia wants the remains of the boat for display.
“I think it would be terrible to let it go to another state,” Bernskoetter says, “It’s part of our history.”
“This would be a way to keep the museum here in Missouri without costing general revenue or taxing people some other way,” he says.
Bernskoetter says the Missouri State Museum, which is inside the capitol building, could be moved and rebuilt to accommodate the steamboat facility and more.
“We’re only one of two states that have the state museum in the Capitol,” he says. “I think the state museum to display artifacts from the state of Missouri would be better suited to be outside of the Capitol and leave the Capitol more for learning about the legislative process.”
The $40 million in revenue for the Steamboat Legacy Fund would also help recover sunken steamboats along the Missouri River, he says.
“There’s the steamboat Malta up near Malta Bend, there’s 400 of them all along the length of Missouri but there’s 200 of them in the Kansas City to St. Louis region,” he says. “There’s about six of them that they would like to dig up that are from different time frames, five or six different decades.”
Bernskoetter says if the bill passes, there are plans to put the museum on former prison property on the east side of Jefferson City.
The new museum would open on the 200th anniversary of Jefferson City becoming the state capital of Missouri.
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