HMS QUEEN MARY
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA
Armed with funds from tideland
oil revenues, the then mayor of Long Beach and the fire marshal traveled to England and purchased the Queen Mary from the
Cunard Line for a few million dollars. The idea was to convert Long Beach from
a sleepy seafront community filled with Zimmer frame users into an up-to-date tourist destination. The Queen Mary acquisition was the first of a number of bold actions taken in realizing that goal. Today, Long Beach and San Diego vie for the number one spot as Southern California’s
most popular waterfront tourist attractions.
Having recently completed
producing five live shows for Expo 67, Romm was retained by the City to devise the master plan to convert the ship into a
public attraction. Romm met the ship upon its arrival on 19 December 1967. Witnessing the main boilers being shut down for the very last time, Romm and a team
of three fellow professionals set about the complex task of exploring the vastness
of her hidden nooks and crannies to determining how the ship was to be used, and which decks and bulkheads were to be removed,
how a tour could be best established, and generally how the promenade wedding chapel/shops, and hotel decks would interact with R deck (restaurants) and the Museum
of the Sea (located below R deck down to the bilge deck 80 feet below. The remit
included organizing J Pier parking and other land-based facilities so they could cohabit on the real estate.
One of the biggest challenges
was convincing the fire marshal that the ship was no longer a ship, but a building that 5000 visitors could inhabit at any
given moment, with many of them being 38 feet below the waterline at one time. At
the conclusion of four months, the team reported its recommendations to the City Manager and the expensive task of refitting
the ship as a tourist attraction over the next three years began. It opened to
the public in 1971. Under the leadership of Disney and others, The Queen Mary
has prospered in a highly competitive market for over 30 years.
Subsequent to completing
the conversion master plan, and while Executive Vice President of Jacques Yves Cousteau’s Living Sea Corporation, Romm
was successful in obtaining a $12 million design/build contract from the California Museum Foundation.