Sunken Towboat Boosts Business in LeClaire - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Sunken Towboat Boosts Business in LeClaire

Updated: Dec 10, 2013 10:25 PM

The cold weather continues to create challenges for crews working to remove a sunken towboat from the Mississippi River near LeClaire, and on Tuesday, they faced another set back as more holes were discovered in the boat.

The two holes discovered on Tuesday brings the total number to three that need to be patched. Crews were hard at work throughout the day trying to complete that task now that the boat has been lifted out of the water.

When the holes are patched, the towboat can go back into the water and on its way to a dry dock in St. Louis.

Until then, it remains here, where it's been for the last two weeks.

But there is a silver lining to the situation.

The towboat has created a pretty big boost for local businesses.

In a town boasting a lot of tourist attractions, the sunken towboat has become a tourist attraction on its own.

"I think this is a pretty big draw actually for this area," said Steve Willis, a Bettendorf resident who made a special trip to LeClaire on Tuesday to see the boat.

"I wanted to come out and check it out and see what it looked like," he explained.

Between the onlookers and the Coast Guard and salvage crews in town to help remove the towboat, LeClaire Chamber of Commerce officials estimate there are up to a thousand extra people in the city on any given day - spending their money while they're here.

"There's a lot of people eating at the restaurants, staying at the motels, and going to some of the shops in town," said Debbie Mulvania, a member of both the LeClaire Chamber of Commerce and the LeClaire Tourism Board.

"I think that everybody around here is trying to take advantage of the silver lining," said Ryan Burchett, owner of the Mississippi River Distilling Company.

Burchett says he's seen a nice boost for his bottom line since the towboat began to sink two weeks ago.

For example, the weekend after Thanksgiving, business was up about 50 percent compared to the same time the year before.

"It's always great to see extra people in town, but especially during a shopping season," he said.

Burchett's business is one of many that have been benefiting from the influx of visitors.

"All of the men out here were able to take a couple hours off to go do some Christmas shopping," said Lt. Colin Fogarty, a U.S. Coast Guard public affairs officer.

"I'm happy to say that my family back in St. Louis will be getting some good gifts from Iowa this year," he added.

And, even when the boat - and the crews and sightseers it brought - are gone, business owners here say they hope to see many of the first time visitors again in the future, hoping they'll become repeat customers.

"This may have given them the opportunity to see what we have to offer and realize what a great, quaint town we have here in LeClaire," Mulvania said.

Tourism officials point out that the extra money being spent in LeClaire isn't just good for the business owners, it's good for the community.

The boost in business means a boost in sales tax and pillow tax revenues, which means more money going to the city to complete projects and improve the overall quality of life for residents.

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