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Entertainment firm has big plans for Queen Mary

April 29, 2009 |  3:01 pm

The idea being pitched to Long Beach by a relatively small Las Vegas entertainment company is extraordinarily ambitious, if not downright outlandish: Renovate and restore the Queen Mary and let the ship sail the oceans of the world.

The company, Cairngorm Entertainment Group, is backing the Queen’s Project, a group that is soliciting funds for the proposal, which it estimates could cost as much as $1.5 billion and require at least four years of dry-dock restorations.

It would be a new venture for Cairngorm, which specializes in distributing vintage movies and television shows, such as “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Love That Bob!” for broadcast on cable channels.

Surveying the vessel, which has been docked in Long Beach Harbor for 40 years, Robert Sides III, president and chief executive officer of the project, asked, “Can you imagine the grandeur of seeing her sail into harbor?”

“Her first second maiden voyage will be a 4 1/2 month world cruise,” he said. “Given her historical value, we will, of course, request military escort in questionable waters.”

Closer to home, “We believe she is worth tens of millions of dollars,” he said. “With that money, the city could pay off its deficit and then some.”

That kind of talk has attracted considerable attention at Long Beach City Hall, where the Queen Mary -- a floating tourist destination featuring an on-board hotel, restaurants, exhibits and other attractions -- is regarded as a questionable city asset. The city owns the Queen Mary, which had its maiden voyage in 1936.

But the vessel and roughly 45 acres of contiguous, undeveloped oceanfront surrounding it are controlled by New York-based Garrison Investment Group under terms of a 66-year lease agreement. Garrison officials declined to comment on its future plans for the Queen Mary and the surrounding property.

But Long Beach City Councilman Patrick O’Donnell, who met with Sides’ group a month ago, said, “I’m not dismissing any potential revival of the ship.”

“It is clear,that there is a perception that the asset is not as viable as predicted,” he said. “So, I’m open to change.”

-- Louis Sahagun