Belle of Louisville raising prices to cope with money problems - News, Weather & Sports

Belle of Louisville raising prices to cope with money problems

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Higher prices and an uncertain future for a Louisville original. The Belle of Louisville kicked off it's 98th year on Memorial Day weekend. But the old steamboat needs to right the ship financially if it's going to make it to its 100th Anniversary.

Troubleshooter Eric Flack first uncovered the Belle's financial problems last year. He went back to see how riders are now paying for it.

The Belle of Louisville is going to need to make a lot more money if it's going to stay afloat financially. And we discovered higher ticket prices is part of the plan. Ticket prices jumped two dollars, the first fare increase in three years.

It's part of the plan to reverse a flood of financial problems and keep the oldest operating Mississippi River steamboat chugging.

"We like history a lot so we thought it was very cool to go on a steamboat," said Juan Tejada as he boarded the Belle with his wife for a Memorial Day cruise.

The city funded Belle hasn't made a profit since 2008. She lost $84,000 last year and is on pace to lose around $150,000 this year. The Waterfront Development Corporation has struggled with ways to keep people coming back. And the high cost of operating an antique doesn't help.

Louisville just had to shell out $230,000 for maintenance and the Belle needs to come up with another $500,000 to $900,000 to replace boilers within 5 years.

Belle CEO Linda Harris said she hopes they'll do enough fundraising leading up to the Belle's 100th anniversary in 2014, in addition to generating revenue on the 5 day festival to mark the celebration, to pay for the new boilers.

But after Mayor Fischer cut the Belle's budget between 2-4% percent next year as part of city wide cutbacks, the Belle is facing more financial pressure than ever before. And possibly, rough waters ahead.

"You take it for granted because you're a local," said Louisville resident Mechelle Moses, also boarding that Memorial Day cruise. "But I would hate to see it not be here."

Harris said she thought Mayor Fischer would be willing to dock the Belle of Louisville permanently to save money if there was no other choice. But as of now Harris said no one's indicated that's a possibility.

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