What A Wonderful World; Riverboat Louis Armstrong To Sail Into New Orleans

The Riverboat Louis Armstrong music and entertainment venue is scheduled to open next year.

In his teens, musician Louis Armstrong performed at New Orleans bars, in street parades and on riverboats sailing up and down the Mississippi River. For three years Armstrong worked with Fate Marable, who played the calliope on the Streckfus Steamboat Line, and he honed his craft that propelled him to become known worldwide as Satchmo, New Orleans’ favorite son.

Just imagine going back in time and taking a pleasure cruise on one of those riverboats, listening to a young Satchmo playing his trumpet and singing his songs. It was a romantic image powerful enough for Warren L. Reuther, Jr., president and CEO of Hospitality Enterprises New Orleans, to build a dream on.

Reuther, also the owner and operator of the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen, announced The City of Evansville, a casino riverboat from Evansville, Indiana which had been in operation since 1995, will be repurposed for a music and entertainment venue in New Orleans and be renamed the Riverboat Louis Armstrong.

“Jazz music is such an important reason why people visit New Orleans from all over the world, and, until now, there has really been no venue big enough that allows visitors to experience large scale music on the Mississippi River in downtown New Orleans,” said Reuther. “We want the Riverboat Louis Armstrong to bring the music of its soul and the vibrancy of the river region together, just as Mr. Armstrong performed on a riverboat in New Orleans. Jazzing on the river is what we want to recapture on the Mississippi River in New Orleans.”

The 310-foot-long, 70-foot-wide riverboat, that was owned and operated by Tropicana on the Ohio River, was built by Jeffboat in Jeffersonville, Indiana. It’s a replica of the historic Robert E. Lee racing sidewheel steamboat, and this month it will travel to a shipyard in Morgan City, Louisiana where Craig Smith, marine operations manager for New Orleans Paddlewheels, will oversee all marine renovations.The Riverboat Louis Armstrong will be moored at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside dock near the Riverwalk and is scheduled to open for business in 2018.

Reuther said the Riverboat Louis Armstrong will host up to 3,000 passengers who will enjoy musical performances on four decks featuring local and national talent playing classical, traditional jazz, R&B and contemporary pop. New Orleans inspired food and drinks will be served, and the riverboat will entertain while cruising along the river and while stationary, dockside.

On the third level, the Riverboat Louis Armstrong Foundation will stage an exhibit showcasing Armstrong memorabilia.

“We could not be more excited to establish such a perfect venue to honor Louis Armstrong,” said Jackie Harris, executive director of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation in New York and former executive director of the Music and Entertainment Commission of New Orleans. “Satchmo’s legendary music is New Orleans. Having his legacy on display for all to enjoy in this authentic setting is truly a gift!”     

Reuther said the Riverboat Louis Armstrong will be the largest riverboat in the region weighing in at 1,589 tons, with 47,863 square feet of public space, a maximum draft of 7-feet, 6-inches, and boasting impressive 98-foot tall smokestacks that are sure to lure visitors and locals alike.

“As the number of New Orleans’ hotel rooms approaches 50,000 within walking distance to the Poydras-Canal Street dock, the Riverboat Louis Armstrong will be the perfect venue for conventioneers as well as leisure travelers, providing extraordinary experiences for great jazz, weddings and, most importantly, large convention events,” said Reuther.

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