The Lady Luck — formerly known as the Newton Creek — making its way down south.EXPAND
The Lady Luck — formerly known as the Newton Creek — making its way down south.
Photo by Elaine Fitzgerald

The Lady Luck Becomes Shipwreck Park, Broward’s Newest Diving Destination

The City of Pompano Beach is about to join the USS Spiegel Grove in Key Largo and the USS Vandenberg in Key West as a destination for artificial reef diving with their sinking of the Newton Creek (rechristened the Lady Luck), a 324-foot tanker vessel, one and a half miles offshore. It will be the centerpiece of what will be called Shipwreck Park.

The venture is a partnership between Shipwreck Park and Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park (hence the new name), both of which have provided funds totaling $312,500 each for what they hope will be a popular dive site that will be curated year-round with underwater art exhibits and events. 

The decommissioned USS Spiegel Grove and USS Vandenberg have been part of a long-term study of the ecological and economic benefits of artificial reefs and their use in relieving pressures on natural reefs in Monroe County. The results have been mixed.

Pompano Beach is counting on a more positive impact and has taken the time and care to do it right.

“This artificial reef will be a colossal tourism generator in Broward County," said assistant city manager Greg Harrison in a statement. "This exciting venture is the sinking of a 324-foot ship in 120-150 depth within one and half miles off the northern shore of Pompano Beach on a flat area that has already been government-permitted for such ecological purposes.”

Brought down from New York City, the tanker, which had been publicly owned, requires less environmental cleanup and therefore less money for prep. On average, artificial reefs like these cost around five to six million dollars to create, with most of the money going toward prepping the vessel.

The Lady Luck above water — for now.EXPAND
The Lady Luck above water — for now.
Photo by Elaine Fitzgerald

“I believe that artificial reefs, when executed responsibly, provide a number of benefits for not only the local economy, but also countless marine species,” states Zach Ransom, a marine biologist and underwater photographer who has completed over 2,000 dives around the world, including at artificial reefs. “In a surprisingly short amount of time, the ungainly, sterile ship evolves into an algae-covered piece of nature, supporting large schools of fish around the perimeter and countless reef fish, corals, and other invertebrates in every nook and cranny. One great example that illustrates the value of these artificial reef sites to wildlife can be found near Jupiter. Every fall, the wrecks there play host to the Goliath Grouper spawning aggregation. This species has been able to rebound from the brink of extinction with the help of artificial reef sites.”

Pompano Beach artist Dennis MacDonald has created a number of pieces for the inauguration of the site tying into the casino’s sponsorship, including giant dice, a whimsical mermaid bargirl, and even interactive pieces like a card-slinging octopus and table shark hustlers for divers to play with.

Dennis MacDonald's mermaid bargirl, ready to assist with a drink in the drink.
Dennis MacDonald's mermaid bargirl, ready to assist with a drink in the drink.
Courtesy of Melanie Riddick

“The other artificial reefs of this size and scale, in Florida are located many miles offshore, requiring lengthy boat rides to get to the site,” says Harrison of the unique opportunity this site offers. “The Pompano Beach, Broward County location is much more attractive because it will be located in a flat, deep area. The unique geography allows for the perfect depth of water with quick, easy access from Port Everglades and Hillsboro Inlet.”

The sinking will be handled by the team responsible for the sinking of the USS Oriskany, which was deployed offshore in Escambia County and has generated millions in tourism commerce. Whether this turns out to be as lucrative an investment is to be seen, but the long-term positive effects are good enough, especially with South Florida losing precious reefs due to dredging and expansion projects in local ports.

“Modifying a natural environment in any way should not be taken lightly,” says Ransom. “I think it's great that the organizers of this project have involved the public, the dive and business communities to ensure that everyone is not only aware of the project, but also excited for it. Personally, I look forward to diving the Lady Luck soon after its sinking and then witnessing the accumulation of life on the site for years to come.”

The sinking of the Lady Luck will take place around 2 p.m., Saturday, July 23, off the Pompano Pier, 222 N. Pompano Beach Blvd., Pompano Beach.

A crowdfunding effort, with numerous attractive perks cheekily titled, “Doubling Down on Lady Luck,” can be found at generosity.com. For more information on Shipwreck Park and updates on the sinking, visit shipwreckparkpompano.org.

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