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Marco Polo Group seeks Y- 2000
Cash for Land Ship

By Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon
Times Globe staff writer

    Smooth sailing may lie ahead for the Marco Polo after 12 years of designs, studies and lobbying.
    Marco Polo Group Inc. now wants to build a full-scale, non-sailing replica of the famous tall ship with funding from the federally funded Millennium Partnership Program. Sitting on the waterfront, the new Marco Polo would include masts that would tower 20 feet above the roof of the Saint John Hilton year-round, in full view of the Harbour Bridge, spokesman Barry Ogden said today.
    It could be completed within a year, just in time for the 150th anniversary of the keel- laying of what was once the fastest ship in the world.
    He estimates the project will cost about $1.8-million, which he said is "much more realistic" than the group's original plan for a sailing replica with a price tag of nearly $28- million. This latest plan has also received more positive reaction than a proposal earlier this year to build a half-size model of the square-rigger, costing $7-million.
    Mr. Ogden's group applied for millennium funding in February, flourishing 20 letters of support from various agencies and local politicians. The feedback to date has been "very promising," and the project has now moved to a second stage.
    By proposing a non-sailing version of the Marco Polo, the group has eliminated the risk and the capital associated with a sailing vessel, but the city would still have "its landmark, its icon," Mr. Ogden said.
    "It speaks of Saint John, to Saint John and about Saint John ... It's our past in shipbuilding, it's our present in shipbuilding and of course our present and our future are very much linked to water and tourism."
    Marco Polo Project studies have predicted the tall ship would attract 150,000 visitors in the first year.
    The Millennium Partnership Program was launched in June 1998 and will expire in March 2001.
   Other New Brunswick projects have already been approved, including Flight for Life, a $ 1. 1 -million project proposed by the New Brunswick Lung Association in Fredericton. The objective of the national campaign is to simultaneously fly kites symbolizing the relationship between clear air and healthy lungs across the country on the first Sunday in June in both 1999 and 2000, which coincides with World Environment Day.

Taken from the Times Globe Newspaper May 26/99

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