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

GulfQuest ready for its debut

The massive Dallas Cowboys stadium that can hold 100,000 people, has a retractable roof and two 60-yard-long television screens took less time to build. At $62 million — $28 million of that city’s taxpayer money through two bond issues and $14.6 million in federal funding — it’s half-again as expensive as Connie Hudson’s soccer/swimming/water park complex dream. And it’s already been declared an abject failure by many citizens tired of the delayed openings and burned out by Mobile’s build-it-and-they-will-come approach to tourism. Despite all of that, GulfQuest is about to open. Properly known as (deep breath) GulfQuest National Maritime...

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GulfQuest attendance projections evaluated

When it opens on Saturday, Sept. 26, officials expect the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum to attract an average of more than 800 visitors a day, but attendance numbers from other maritime museums suggest that may be overly optimistic. A marketing study done in 2009, the same year ground was broken on the $60 million facility, estimated the museum’s average attendance would be 300,000 a year. Of those 300,000 visitors a year, 50,000 to 60,000 would be from school trips. Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Al Hutchinson told a crowd of onlookers during a ceremony announcing...

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GulfQuest set to open Saturday, Sept. 26

The blowing horns atop tugboats in Mobile River Thursday morning served as big sigh of relief for leaders involved with GulfQuest National Maritime Museum. After years of guessing, the museum board chairman E.B. Peebles joined Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson to unfurl a banner announcing Saturday, Sept. 26, as the official opening date for the only maritime museum dedicated to the Gulf of Mexico. Today’s announcement comes roughly six years after ground was broken on the structure, according to a GulfQuest statement. After the announcement, GulfQuest Executive Director Tony Zodrow, who has been personally involved with the project for 10...

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GulfQuest exterior glass will need to be ‘addressed’

Some of the exterior glass at the GulfQuest maritime museum might have to be replaced, although the work is not expected to further delay its opening. Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Chief of Staff Colby Cooper confirmed Monday afternoon that “hundreds of scratches” to exterior glass he believes was installed during initial construction of the building will have to be “addressed.” Cooper said the scratches were discovered during a city walkthrough to examine items on a punch list related to building’s construction, a part of the city’s contract with GulfQuest. Cooper said at least some of the scratches must be fixed,...

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COVER STORY: Floating optimism: Taking a look inside GulfQuest National Maritime Museum

More than five years after ground was broken on the site between the western banks of the Mobile River and Water Street, many of the exhibits are in place and ready for display at GulfQuest National Maritime Museum. But with exhibit construction on the second and fourth floors still needed and buildout of the center’s gift shop remaining, Executive Director Tony Zodrow still won’t confirm an opening date for the facility that was highly anticipated before community patience started to grow thin. “We have 16 contractors working on exhibits,” he said. “In the next couple of months we’ll get...

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Board member: GulfQuest won’t ‘make March date’

Although crews are finishing up its fit-out, the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum grand opening may not be held until late spring, according to members of the museum’s Board of Trustees. If so, it would put the museum opening almost three years behind its original schedule. The latest reports pegged the museum opening in March, but Alabama Port Authority CEO and GulfQuest board member Jimmy Lyons said it would most likely open later than expected. “It’s probably going to be later in spring,” Lyons said. “It’s getting close, but I don’t think it’ll make the March date.” Lyons said GulfQuest...

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GulfQuest issued certificate of occupancy

Colby Cooper, the mayor’s chief of staff, sent a letter to the City Council yesterday announcing that GulfQuest had been issued its official Certificate of Occupancy. Cooper called it “a significant next step and puts the project in its final stretch.” Previously, GulfQuest Director Tony Zodrow explained that the opening date of the national maritime museum was dependent on the certificate, because sensitive displays and equipment could not installed until major construction was complete. GulfQuest in April 2014. An interactive display called “America’s Sea” under construction in the lobby of GulfQuest. GulfQuest’s logo in the building’s lobby. LAGNIAPPE |...

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City mired in dispute with GulfQuest contractor for years

Monthly progress reports and internal emails indicate a dispute with one of GulfQuest’s primary contractors went unresolved for years, as the $45 million project’s substantial completion date shifted from August 2012 to early 2014. Today, the museum honoring the Gulf Coast’s maritime industry has been issued a second 90-day temporary certificate of occupancy and is reported to be in its final stages of fit-out, but until last month, the dispute was left unresolved. In January 2011, Mississippi contractor W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company was awarded a $14 million contract for the museum’s structural work, the largest of about...

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Latest GulfQuest target opening date: six months after occupancy

From the outside, it’s hard to imagine why the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum isn’t open. The facade was completed in mid-2012, and since then the cranes and major construction equipment have been removed from the site. More recently, the parking lot was paved and striped, and the grounds landscaped. But take a step through the double glass doors at the front entrance and it’s a different story. The lobby is coming together, but just beyond, the “galley” of the museum — where visitors will be able to grab a bite to eat and watch the Gulf’s vessel traffic in...

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GulfQuest now aiming for summer opening

Mobilians and visitors alike will have to wait a little longer before exploring the wonders of the GulfQuest Maritime Museum it seems. Although then-City Attorney Larry Wettermark said on Oct. 22 the museum would open in “two or three months,” GulfQuest now looks like it won’t open until sometime this summer, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said at today’s City Council meeting. The opening date for the museum was originally pegged for July 2012. Subsequent target dates have been announced, but all have been moved back. Stimpson said today he is determined GulfQuest would hit its newest opening date, one that would leave it essentially two years behind schedule. “It is my understanding the estimated opening will be summer and the city will do every thing it can to fulfill that promise,” he said. “Right now there is a punch list of things that have not been done. However, there is not a contractor on site and the funds are expended. There is not a huge list of things to be done. It is on the edge of being completed.” Stimpson said he is ready for the day when visitors and citizens can explore the GulfQuest Maritime Museum. “I think it will be a huge step in the right direction when it is opened,” he said. If for some reason the city will need to spend more money on the museum,...

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