City officials unveiled the bright yellow and blue river barge prototype Monday morning. The barge, which is electric as opposed to the city's current gas-powered fleet, has modular deck components that can be moved and shifted around so that the vessel can have multiple uses, like for giving tours or hosting dining cruises.
During the next 30 days, the barge will be tested in those different configurations before the City of San Antonio releases a request for proposals for someone to build 44 new boats. Rio San Antonio Cruises, which currently operates the fleet, will have to re-apply to operate the barges because on September 6, the City will open up the operation to new bidders. In a press release, city officials say they hope to unveil the new fleet in September 2017.
Last October, City leaders decided that to celebrate San Antonio's 300th anniversary in 2018 the right way, the river barges needed to be "re-imagined." The current design was created for HemisFair '68. To do this, the City teamed up with the San Antonio chapter of The American Institute of Architects to hold a contest for designs. Out of a pool of 12 anonymous submissions, a panel of jurors selected the top three designs. Houston firm METALAB's won the contest.
“The iconic River Walk is an asset that belongs to all of San Antonio,” Mayor Ivy R. Taylor says in a press release. “The new river barge design is bold, innovative and reflects the character of our progressive and growing city. The new design will truly transform the river barge experience for the next generation.”
The classic red with blue trim river boats that snake through the River Walk carrying tourists and the occasional Spurs championship team now have a very different new look.