WILMINGTON -- A large renovation project planned for the Battleship North Carolina is making room for overnight guests.
The estimated $2.5 million project has been in the works since 1998 and now they're waiting for final approval from the state.
It includes improvements to two berthing areas, bathrooms, and the wardroom.
Once it's complete it will accommodate groups with up to 130 overnight guests.
"There's a lot to learn about how the sailors lived on board ship, how they were divided into divisions, how they each had a role in making sure it was battle ready," said Chris Vargo, assistant director of the battleship.
The overnighters will keep all of their belongings in a small locker and sleep in bunks that are stacked five high. Battleship officials said they're trying to maintain the ship's historical integrity as much as they can.
"We're not providing five-star but what we are providing is an unique experience for these people to come, feel and understand the battleship a little bit more," said Heather Loftin, the promotions director for the battleship.
They raised most of the money for the work during a fundraiser in 1998.
Museum leaders said upgrading the needed safety features posed some challenges until new technology came along. They said now, they're ready to move forward so they can start this new program that could bring in around 7,500 overnight guests a year.
"One of the things that we always look for is ways to diversify our programming but we have to stay true to the memorial and by providing overnight camping that is maintaining what is true to the memorial," Loftin said.
Visitors said it would be a true honor to sleep aboard a living piece of history.
"I think it would be great for adults and kids to be able to have that experience," said Michael Cunningham, a Raleigh resident.
Battleship officials hope to have the overnight program up and running by next summer.