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Six Suitors for Corpus Christi’s La Niña

La Niña will be moved to a shipyard in Aransas Pass sometime in April. Meanwhile, the Corpus Christi City Council is looking at six different proposals for renovating the ship. One proposal is from the city of Aransas Pass, which comes to the table with a philanthropist ready to pay the expenses.

A decision on which of six entities interested in taking over the Columbus replica ship La Niña could be made by the Corpus Christi City Council sometime in the next few weeks. The ship will be moved for partial repairs in April to a shipyard in Aransas Pass while a committee considers the six bids and prepares for a presentation to the City Council. The next steps would be a vote and a handover.

Aransas Pass is the only one of the six entities that submitted proposals to be revealed so far. The names are being kept under wraps while under consideration, said city staffer Gina Sanchez. In its excitement to add the ship as an attraction, Aransas Pass has been public and vocal in its involvement.

“We are really excited about having something like this to bring people to our community,” said Rosemary Vega of the Aransas Pass Chamber of Commerce. “It will be an enhancement to our harbor park. We’ve spent a lot of time cleaning up that park, which is really busy at certain times of the year.”

The biggest ace up this bidder’s sleeve is an anonymous donor who will pay for renovation expenses — if the vessel stays in the Coastal Bend. Since the city is paying to have it moved to the shipyard, Vega hopes the prospect of having to pay even more to move it somewhere else afterward will incline the council to leave it there.

Only the bottom of the ship is being repaired at this time — financed by the same anonymous donor rooting for Aransas Pass. With so many entities now interested, the city’s investment in a move should be a good one, Sanchez said.

“We are really, really optimistic and positive and excited,” Sanchez said. “This is really good news for this boat.”

La Niña is one of three ships given to the city by Spain after the trio toured the world in 1992 celebrating the 500th anniversary of when Christopher Columbus first landed in the western world. The other two ships, which were dry docked at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History for years, eventually rotted. The Pinta and the Santa Maria were dismantled for parts to help rebuild La Niña.

The remaining Caraval was damaged by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. The Columbus Sailing Association, a nonprofit that has maintained the ship over its history with the city, returned that responsibility to Corpus Christi last year. A Facebook post for the organization states that “the CSA has ceased to exist.”

According to Vega, Aransas Pass toured the ship last week after submitting its proposal to renovate. Until the tour, Aransas Pass officials thought they were only ones interested.

“We were surprised there were several other cities now interested,” Vega said. “One thing we have in our favor is we have a philanthropist ready to pay for it if it stays in the area.”

Sanchez said she could not reveal the names of interested parties but did say the proposals are not all from cities.

“La Niña is not being sold,” Sanchez pointed out when asked about “bidders.” “We are looking for someone to transfer ownership to.”

Aransas Pass officials certainly hope that they soon will be among the entities presenting their proposal to the nine members of the Corpus Christi City Council — perhaps the only one.

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