MOBILE, AL (WKRG) — 13 months after its celebrated opening as a premiere tourist attraction in Mobile, the GulfQuest Maritime Museum is closing to the public on Monday.
The Mayor’s Office announced in a press release on Friday that the city has reached a deal to take on the museum’s financial woes after attendance figures were far lower than expected.
Going forward, GulfQuest will only open on a limited basis, specifically for private and special events, such as field trips, including those already scheduled. The general public will not be able to purchase a ticket to attend the museum after Sunday.
According to the press release, the City of Mobile and GulfQuest’s Board of Trustees reached an agreement to prop up the $70 million public-private venture. This comes after GulfQuest officials had requested an immediate $1,850,000 from the City of Mobile.
“At this time, we cannot recommend additional city funds be allocated to GulfQuest without significant changes to the Maritime Museum’s business model and its management,” said Mayor Stimpson in the release.
Beginning Monday, the Museum will be maintained by a minimally required number of staff who will become City employees reporting into the Mayor’s office. The Board of Trustees will be responsible for raising funds for maintenance of the exhibits and to cover their outstanding payables and significant debt obligations, the release said.
Additionally, the press release states the city will “do its part” to maintain the building and grounds.
The GulfQuest Maritime Museum opened last year on September 26 with immeasurable hype and expectations after a lengthy construction process and unveiling.
The Mayor’s Office says GulfQuest found itself in an unsustainable financial situation after projected attendance numbers failed to be reached in year one.
According to the release, the City and Board will work to identify the appropriate consultants or third-party operators who can bring a renewed sense of fun, entertainment and education to the Mobile waterfront.
The project cost $62 million. The City borrowed $28 million and received $20 million in federal funds. Private donations amounted to $11 million and the project received $3 million in federal tax credits.
More tonight on News 5 at 10PM.