Tourism Volunteers Hopeful and Disappointed by Welcome Center Move

Fort Conde Welcome Center Sign

Mobile, AL (WKRG)

Mobile’s new front porch is moving just a few feet from its old front porch. After nearly a year of mulling the decision city officials announced late Friday, they’d move the welcome center from Fort Conde to the history museum. I talked with some tourism volunteers who weren’t thrilled with the idea.

“I’m very surprised and disappointed at all the changes and I hate to see something that’s not broken try to be fixed,” said volunteer Jean Ingram. The fort is under new management.

“Our vision of the fort is to turn it into a year-round vibrant attraction it will change every quarter,” said Scott Tindle in a Thursday interview with News 5. He’s with Activation Management, the company that’s overhauling the fort. They’ll begin charging a general admission sometime next year to a place that had been free.

Volunteers say they take pride in their work and will try and continue it at the History Museum.

“Well, I’m excited about the changes to Fort Conde and saddened by the way they’ve taken place and I feel it’s wonderful we’re going to have more vibrant exhibits for children and our adults to learn about our heritage,” said volunteer Ronald Hunt. In a way, moving the welcome center just across the street to the History Museum is almost like a lateral move. When the former head of Visit Mobile talked about moving the welcome center nearly a year ago the rationale at that time was to move it to a more convenient location for out-of-towners.

“But we have to find a place where folks can get easy access off the interstate, parking has to be primo,” said former Visit Mobile President Al Hutchinson in a January interview. None of those issues appear to be addressed by moving the visitor’s center just a few feet away.

The welcome center won’t reopen until December 12th. Some volunteers argue this hurts tourism by having the center closed for nearly two weeks straight.

Stimpson Chief of staff Colby Cooper sent this statement regarding the rationale for the changes in the welcome center location and Fort Conde Management.

This was a collaborative idea brought to the City by the Museum Board and as such we engaged Visit Mobile to reconfigure our amenities and afford our guests this continued service.
Fort Conde was stale and under utilized and so the administration unequivocally supported the agreement reached by the Museum Board and a private entity. The benefit is upwards of possibly 80,000 more people engaging this newly renovated part of downtown.
Whereas, it is recognized that there was some consternation and angst among some of the volunteers and within the tourism community, we are hopeful that as people see this puzzle coming together including Mardi Gras Park, Riverside Ice, the Interstate Tourist Gateway, Carnival’s return, Fort Conde’s activation, the DFFAAHT located within the History Museum along with the Visitor Center, etc., that there is no doubt left in their mind that what we are trying to do is create Destination Mobile — a fun, historic, vibrant place to visit and live.

 

History Museum of Mobile

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