River Center shelter forces temporary closure, layoffs at USS Kidd

Visitors from Liberty, Mississippi begin a tour of the USS Kidd. Volunteers have been preparing the USS Kidd for an upcoming movie to be filmed aboard the ship. (File photo)

Count the USS Kidd among the victims of the historic 2016 flood. The World War II-era battleship and museum, one of downtown Baton Rouge’s premier tourist attractions, was not damaged in the disaster. However, the Kidd was forced to temporarily shut down more than two weeks ago, when River Road was partially closed to accommodate flood victims being sheltered in the Baton Rouge River Center.

“They need that right of way in the road for the safety of the people being housed in the River Center,” USS Kidd Interim Executive Director Mark Tullos says. “We understand. But we’re a little concerned.”

Tullos says with its doors shut for more than two weeks, the Kidd has been forced to lay off its six part-time employees, though its full-time staff has not been impacted. In theory, group tours and overnight events can still be booked, though those bring in a small part of overall revenues.

“We are almost entirely self-sustaining,” he says. “We don’t receive any state support, so this is impacting us fiscally.”

Typically, August is the slowest month of the year so the Kidd hasn’t lost as much money as it would have had the closure occurred in the busy spring or fall. Still, Tullos says August revenues average around $3,000 a week.

“Now we’re going on week three,” he says. “We understand there is nothing anybody can do, but it’s getting critical.”

This isn’t the first time the USS Kidd has been forced to close following a natural disaster. It was shut down for nearly three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, when the River Center became a shelter for evacuees from New Orleans.

Tullos doesn’t expect this closure to last that long. He says he has heard River Road will be open by mid-September, but he knows no one can say that for sure just yet.

“We are trying to make due as best we can,” he says. “We’re going to be really dependent on the kindness of the community to help get us through.”

—Stephanie Riegel

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