Despite $2 million in damage to Battleship North Carolina’s visitors center by Hurricane Florence in the fall, there is a silver lining.
The more than 35-year-old structure that greets thousands of visitors annually before they board the memorial warship, moored at 1 Battleship Road, is getting a major makeover.
“Looking on the bright side, the hurricane damage gave us the opportunity to provide an enhanced visitor experience with newly designed space and improved exhibits for a full educational experience,” said Stacie Hidek, battleship marketing director.
The visitors center’s revamp will better showcase the museum’s artifacts, which were unscathed by the storm, thanks to prehurricane preparations. Innovative displays and enhanced tours will also take center stage.
“What used to be the auditorium when you first entered the exhibit space will now be a newly designed Legacy Gallery, honoring the ships carrying the name North Carolina,” Hidek explained. “The Friends of the Battleship will have a dedicated area from which to stage their tours and offer information about membership, and the exhibits are all being rethought and refreshed for the new space.”
Ecological upgrades are part of the repairs too.
Battleship officials said the visitors center lost 60 percent of its roof during the September storm, causing extensive water damage. As a result, the building was gutted, requiring new flooring, drywall and insulation.
“The visitors center will have a new roof and new windows with improved wind ratings,” Hidek said. “We will also have a new backup power generator.”
What’s more, the front ticket counter will be moved deeper into the building. The change will provide more covered and air-conditioned space for visitors to line up, when purchasing tickets.
Meanwhile, repairs to the visitors center began earlier this year and are expected to wrap in mid-spring before the prime tourism season.
“It took a while to line up the subcontractors necessary to do some of the work because of the high demand in the area [after Florence],” she said.
As for funding the $2 million repairs, officials said that insurance payments will compensate the historic landmark.
“The N.C. Department of Insurance was helpful and supportive throughout the claim process,” Hidek said.
The battleship itself, which came to Wilmington in 1961, was unharmed by Florence. The attraction reopened in October, after floodwaters from the Cape Fear River receded from Battleship Park.
The visitors center also reopened at that time, but the exhibit area is closed as repairs continue.
The ship and visitors center are open daily, including holidays.