After months of concerns and confusion on the part of volunteers and others, Visit Mobile officially opened the city’s new welcome center inside a portion of the History Museum of Mobile.
For years, the welcome center was located inside Fort Conde and managed by the History Museum of Mobile, but roughly two years ago, the welcome center became part of Visit Mobile during city budget negotiations.
Then last year, the history museum board leased Fort Conde to a private organization to be turned into a colonial fort, representing the countries of France, Spain, Great Britain and the United States — leaving the welcome center in need of a new home.
During an opening event for the center’s new location on Friday, Mayor Sandy Stimpson acknowledged what he called the “angst” that surrounded the changes to the facility’s management and location over the past few years.
“It has bounced around, as other things have changed,” he added. “It makes sense for it to be located where it is.”
According to Stimpson, the new center is in the very best location given the redevelopment of Fort Conde into an attraction, adding that the new location was a much better use of space.
Other officials seemed pleased with the new location as well, including Mobile County Commission President Merceria Ludgood, who said there was “no more fitting place for the visitor center” than the history museum.
“You can get the complete story of Mobile here,” she said. “You can gauge who we are and where we come from.”
Gulf Coast Exploreum Executive Director Jan McKay told the crowd she was excited the welcome center would be “in our neighborhood.”
“Twenty-three percent of visitors at the exploreum are tourists,” McKay said. “The welcome center helps to make them feel good about Mobile.”
McKay called the volunteers at the welcome center “frontline Mobilians to the world.”
“They provide the feeling (visitors) have when they visit Mobile,” she said. “They help us …. We refer visitors to the welcome center.”