After closing in November due to low attendance and an increasing debt, the GulfQuest Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico will reopen next month in conjunction with a traveling exhibit.

The museum will host a grand opening on Saturday, Feb. 18, before remaining open on Wednesday through Saturday, starting Feb. 22. The grand opening wil also debut the exhibit “Shipwreck!: Pirates and Treasure,” city spokesman George Talbot said.

“SHIPWRECK! Pirates & Treasure provides a fun, attractive and appealing entertainment and educational opportunity for citizens and tourists alike,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with the Board of Trustees to identify a path forward that leads to a sustainable GulfQuest operation.”

In addition, the reopening will usher in new cheaper ticket prices and free parking.
“The hope is this is going to help us bridge to the long-term,” Talbot said.

The exhibit comes to the museum at no cost to city taxpayers and Talbot said they expect to continue using the skeleton crew that remained once GulfQuest was closed.

“We really have nowhere to go but up,” Talbot said.

Since it closed to the public, the museum has been open on days the Carnival Fantasy is in port. However, Talbot said the museum has been slow on those days, with few cruisers taking advantage. In fact, he said the museum has been closed on some cruise days because of low demand.

The city took over GulfQuest from its nonprofit board 13 months after it opened. The project itself was marred by years of construction delays. The board’s agreement with the city came after Chairman Mike Lee asked the city to help the museum overcome $1.8 million in debt.

The city could never let the museum completely close to the public as most of the exhibits and some of the construction had been funded through federal grant money.