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Belle of Louisville facing 'severe financial hit' amid COVID-19, asking for donations

"The longer we go without cruising, the more our future lays in the balance," CEO of Belle of Louisville, Krista Snider said.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An icon in the river city is asking for the community's help to stay afloat.

Belle of Louisville Riverboats has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in March and is worried the coronavirus pandemic will cost the future of its historic vessels. 

The Belle is usually busy in spring with thousands of visitors. Derby, school field trips and graduations usually sell out tickets. CEO, Krista Snider said only one cruise has sailed since the start of 2020.   

"The longer we go without cruising, the more our future lays in the balance," Snider said. "Spring is when we make much-needed ticket revenue and charter revenue in order to be able to sustain our operations."

One week after Belle of Louisville's first sail of spring, the coronavirus forced all cruises to cancel in March through May 10th.

"Right now we are just lasting on our reserves," Snider said.

The team is asking for donations from community members while suffering a severe financial hit. Snider said dozens of staff members had to be furloughed. If lockdowns continue, she said they could lose up to a million dollars.

"[Belle of Louisville] is actually unique in the entire world," Snider said. "She's the only continuously operating steamboat of her type and of her age, and Louisvillians sometimes take that for granted but we're not just your regular ole riverboat."

The tourist attraction has been a part of the city for more than a hundred years. There are three vessels that require constant maintenance.

"That's important to preserve that history," Snider said. "But only with ongoing maintenance of these wooden boats that sit on the water can we make sure that that happens, and of course maintenance requires crew and resources."

Metro Council had to cut subsidies to the Belle in last year's budget. Belle of Louisville was hoping to gain the money back this fiscal year by introducing new ways to expand its audience and generate revenue.  

"When can we get back to normal?" Snider said. "The longer we go this time of year without cruising because we're a seasonal attraction – the more financially risky things get."

The Belle is hoping to reschedule cruise dates in the fall, but Snider said there is a lot of uncertainty right now. To donate to Belle of Louisville, click here.

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