Is Independence in the running for the Steamboat Arabia?

The boat went down in the Missouri River 163 years ago this month upstream from Kansas City. It was found and its artifacts excavated three decades ago. Those items – tools and toys, clothes and bottles, the consumer goods of 1856 – are displayed at the River Market in Kansas City and reportedly have attracted about 3 million visitors over the years.

But many also assume that with the River Market doing well these days, the Arabia will be out when its lease is up in 2026.

So what comes next?

“There’s a lot of communities that are willing to build a building for the Steamboat Arabia,” Independence City Manager Zach Walker says. “There’s not a lot of communities that are willing to pay for their collection.”

A bill in the General Assembly this year would tax the riverboat casinos to pay for a new facility, probably in mid-Missouri, to showcase stories such as the Arabia that need a large venue. That bill didn’t make it.

Missouri is about the only state left with its official state history museum in its capitol building. I happen to think that’s kind of cool on some levels – it’s great for visiting students – but obviously space is limited. We really could use something bigger and better, and you can make a good case for the central location of mid-Missouri – just as you can make a good case for keeping the Arabia in the Kansas City area.

Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said she’s talked with Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe about finding state money just to keep the Arabia in Missouri – somewhere – rather than see it go far away. Then the specifics of “somewhere” could be worked out later.

History tourism creates clean jobs and is fairly steady. The Arabia would mesh nicely with the wealth of historic sites in Independence, but this will likely come down to which city is willing to stroke a large check. That’s not easy. Stay tuned.

Staying on the job

Greg’s Lock and Key Service in Independence has honored two longtime employees.

Darrell Richardson has been with the company for 30 years, and the company says despite the changes in the industry in that time, he’s kept pace in his job as a service technician. Chris Parks is celebrating 25 years with the company – and he was a locksmith before that – and Greg’s calls him “a cornerstone of the business’ pursuits.”

Quick hits

Hy-Vee is upgrading two of its local stores. The store at 625 West U.S. 40 in Blue Springs is being remodeled. A sushi island, Mia Pizza and a Hibachi department are being added, the salad bar and Hickory House are being relocated, and the Hy-Vee Market Grille full-service restaurant is becoming a Hy-Vee Market Grille Express, more of a self-service food court. That’s to be wrapped up by November. Also, remodeling is planned at the Noland Road store, where Mia Pizza is coming and the Market Grille also is becoming a Market Grille Express. The company is remodeling about a dozen stores metrowide. … Monopoly Acquisitions LLC has bought the former Commerce Bank site at Truman and Osage on the edge of the Independence Square. Bill Maas of Block & Co. says its best use would be another bank on the first floor. The Truman Heritage chapter of Habitat for Humanity has already moved to a new site. … Family Dollar has a grand re-opening set for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at 11714 E. 23rd St. in Independence. Family Dollar has about 8,000 stores nationwide. … Dollar General has a grand opening at 8 a.m. Saturday at 15909 E. 23rd St. in Independence. Dollar General has almost 16,000 stores nationwide.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or jeff.fox@examiner.net. His Twitter handle is @FoxEJC.