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Spirit of Peoria pairing up with Julia Belle Swain in La Crosse, Wis.

Emily Bollinger

Two riverboats with long legacies in the city of Peoria are together — in La Crosse, Wis.

Troy Manthey of Yacht Starship in Tampa, Fla. has purchased both the Julia Belle Swain and the Spirit of Peoria. In a Facebook post, Manthey said he plans to restore both riverboats in dry dock. Exterior renovations are set to be completed by the end of this year, with interior rehab wrapping up sometime in 2023.

"We are actively in discussion with a great river city to operate the riverboats and hopeful we can announce our new home port soon," he said.

The Julia Belle Swain was put up for sale last year. The boat was first docked in La Crosse in 2009, where it has remained idle for several years. A private foundation later invested more than $2.6 million in the boat. Manthey credits that group's efforts for keeping the Julia Belle Swain in good condition.

The Spirit of Peoria was sold by Alex Grieves to Manthey's company last spring after the city of Peoria declined to make an offer for the boat, citing a lack of information about the boat's condition and seaworthiness.

Capt. Alice Grady of the Spirit of Peoria is now working with Manthey's team.

The Spirit of Peoria's former dock on the Illinois River in downtown Peoria remains empty. Peoria Mayor Rita Ali has said she would like to attract another riverboat to fill the void.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.