Houston-based Landry’s Restaurants Inc., today announced it will restore Galveston’s landmark but hurricane-battered Flagship Hotel, adding a double-decker carousel and a Ferris wheel to the 1,000-foot pleasure pier that juts over the Gulf.

Landry’s CEO Tilman Feritta, who bought the 225-hotel in 2004, has pledged to spend at least $15 million on the project, which should be open for the 2011 tourism season.

Landry’s spokeswoman Dancie Ware said the amusement rides will be consistent with those that were featured on the pleasure pier when it was constructed 69 years ago. Fertitta has successfully combined restaurants and carnival-style rides in tourist-oriented projects in Kemah and downtown Houston.

“This is absolutely exciting,” said RoShelle Gaskins, spokeswoman for the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. “History has shown that the old pleasure pier was a huge draw, and this will be even bigger.”

Gaskins said the hotel is the last major beachfront structure that still bears scars of September 2008’s devastating Hurricane Ike. In that storm, the concrete drive linking the hotel to Seawall Boulevard was blown away, as were some of the structure’s exterior walls.

Other nearby businesses, including Murdoch’s souvenir shop, which also extended over the Gulf, are being readied for opening, Gaskins said. Murdoch’s, she said, should open in the spring.

Fertitta purchased the Flagship Hotel, which was opened in 1965, for $500,000 five years ago. Since then, a number of options have been considered, including demolishing or selling the hotel. Earlier this year, Landry’s said it might tear down the hotel and use the pier for an undisclosed purpose.

In July, the city responded to complaints by sending Landry’s a nuisance abatement notice, advising the corporation to attend to debris on the site and rooms being open to the elements. Earlier, the city had asked Landry’s to fence the site to keep out trespassers.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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