The rise and fall of GulfQuest

The $60 million GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico closed in November 2016, after just 13 months in operation. Lagniappe's series of news stories, investigations, commentary and reviews raised questions about its feasibility before the doors even opened. BY LAGNIAPPE STAFF

The rise and fall of GulfQuest

Financial, attendance analysis shows GulfQuest was never solvent

GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico struggled to attract attendance in each of its 13 months in operation. Records provided by outgoing Executive Director Tony Zodrow indicate the museum was unable to maintain a steady admission base, which ultimately led Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson to take over the $60 million facility and temporarily close it to the public. A GulfQuest activity report released during a Sept. 8 meeting of the museum’s board of trustees, shows the facility attracted 73,343 visitors in the 11 months it was open, between September 2015 and August 2016. A report from...

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City takes over doomed GulfQuest

Although it opened roughly 13 months ago with a news conference and a few blasts from the horn of a tugboat, GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico closed temporarily to the public this week with barely a whimper. After about two decades of planning and five years after ground was broken on the banks of the Mobile River in downtown Mobile, the $60 million, state-of-the-art museum simply ran out of money and was absorbed “until further notice” by Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office. In a statement, Stimpson announced a “transition period” for the museum and an agreement...

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GulfQuest’s failure has many fathers

In what has to be the perfect side note to the GulfQuest debacle, the folks from the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museums were in town last week going through the soon-to-be-shuttered maritime museum. Upon hearing this I thought they must have come to add the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico as an exhibit in one of their odd museums. I mean, a maritime museum that was 20 years in the making, and took five years just to build, closing (at least temporarily)  about two minutes after celebrating its first year in business is pretty...

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GulfQuest focusing on locals after attendance report

When GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico board of trustees chairman Mike Lee had to tell a neighbor the facility wasn’t an aquarium, he realized maybe more marketing was needed. “I said ‘my own neighbor hasn’t figured out it’s not an aquarium,’” he said. “We have to get the word out and we have to get some marketing dollars. We have to spend them in a smart way … ” An emphasis on targeted marketing may help the museum, after it fell well short of projected attendance numbers in its first year with only 80,000 paid...

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Time to open up, GulfQuest

It has certainly been perhaps the most scrutinized public project in Mobile’s recent history, and as its bones rose from the banks of the river and opening date after opening date was pushed back, criticism mounted. But at the end of the day, GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico turned out to be as magnificent as promised. So why now — one year after it opened — are criticisms rising again? The simple answer at this point is that the museum has horribly missed the high marks it set for itself attendance-wise, and also isn’t paying...

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About The Author

Rob Holbert

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Rob Holbert is co-publisher and managing editor of Lagniappe, Mobile’s independent newspaper. Rob helped found the newspaper after a career that started as a police reporter and columnist at the Mississippi Press in Pascagoula. He followed that with a stint as a deputy press secretary for then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott in Washington, D.C. After leaving Capitol Hill, Rob worked ghost-writing opinion articles for publication in some of the nation’s largest newspapers. From 1999 through Aug. 2010 he was the faculty adviser for the University of South Alabama student newspaper, The Vanguard, and in 2002 started Lagniappe with his business partner Ashley Trice. The paper now prints 30,000 copies every two weeks and is distributed around Mobile and the Eastern Shore. According to Scarborough Research, Lagniappe now has more than 80,000 readers each week, with close to a quarter of that coming online. The paper began publishing weekly at the beginning of April 2014.

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