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Museum of the Gulf Coast soliciting private contributions after eventful 2020

The Museum of the Gulf Coast was on track to surpass last year’s record for visitors when an uninvited guests known as coronavirus and Hurricane Laura forced the downtown Port Arthur attraction to shutter its doors on two occasions.

The museum, located at 700 Procter St., receives nearly half of its support from city funds and would receive $246,336 — a slight increase from the current fiscal year — under the Hotel Occupancy Fund under Port Arthur’s proposed 2020-21 budget, if passed.

Councilmembers will vote on the budget during Tuesday’s regular meeting, which starts at 11 a.m. and can be viewed at: portarthurtx.swagit.com/live.

Museum leaders solicited financial help from individuals and businesses during a budget presentation to councilmembers in a second budget workshop Monday.

As of July 31, the museum made $20,930 from admissions, membership and facility rentals, less than 30 percent of its 2019 total ($70,485). Gift shop sales totaled $20,930 as of July 31, well short of the $65,403 last year.

Former Los Angeles Rams coach Wade Phillips speaks before awarding the Bum Phillips Golden Triangle Coach of the Year ring at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in March. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 3-5-20

“We try to be a positive voice for the community,” said Dr. Sam Monroe, president of the Port Arthur Historical Society, which operates the museum.

Included in the museum are music and sports halls of fame, which honor people with local ties who have made significant contributions to their professions on a national scale.

“We are a voice heard around the country, by and through the personalities in the halls of fame,” Monroe said. “We attract people from around the country and around the world. They don’t know English but they know the words to ‘Chantilly Lace’.”

“Chantilly Lace” was a 1958 rock-and-roll single performed by Sabine Pass native J.P. Richardson, aka The Big Bopper.

The Museum of the Gulf Coast closed March 14 due to protective measures against COVID-19 and reopened May 3. It closed again from Aug. 24 to Sept. 2 due to Hurricane Laura. But during both closures, museum workers focused on upgrades to the music hall of fame.

5,251 visitors have been to the museum through July 31, making it unlikely the total visitor count reaches previous records when 2020 ends.

The museum drew 16,687 in 2019, beating the previous record of 15,920 set in 2018.

The museum has started a support fund and society officials are asking companies to commit to donating $250 per month for six months ($1,500 total) to address the shortfall. The city’s contributions represent 48 percent of the museum’s $492,580.64 budget for 2019-20, and the city typically raises other funds through building rentals and an annual fundraising gala, but COVID-19 slowed business down and put a halt to the gala.

The Port Arthur Historical Society, which also operates the Pompeiian Villa, commits $250,040.64 to salaries and benefits and employees five full-time workers, including director Tom Neal, an education director, curator, administrative assistant and security guard.

A Paycheck Protection Program loan, which the federal government introduced at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, was taken out for the museum, but Neal said the society is filing paperwork to convert the loan to a grant.

“I feel like we have an obligation to give the city all that we could during the pandemic,” Neal said. “A lot of people are coming to the museum because it’s one of the safest places to go. Social distancing is not a problem.”

Individual and family memberships ranging from $10 per year for high school and college students to $1,000 lifetime for a family plus eight guests (when accompanied by a member) also help support the museum.

The museum is open Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Single-day admission is $8 for each adult, $4 for children 12 and older and $3 for kids younger than 12. Kids 5 and under can get in free with a paid adult.

To donate to the support fund, call Neal at 409-982-7000.

“This is one of the top attractions in the state of Texas,” Neal said. “This place really rocks in our market, as well as the alligator farm and the beach.”

Museum of the Gulf Coast regular membership fees

(To sign up for a membership or details on benefits of these fees, call the museum at 409-982-7000.)

  • Student: $10 per year (valid high school or college ID required)
  • Single: $25 per year
  • Couple: $40 per year
  • Family: $50 per year (free admission for immediate family, including spouse and children)
  • Sustaining: $75 per year (free admission for family plus two guests when accompanied by member)
  • Non-profit organization: $50 per year
  • Corporate: $150 per year (20 or fewer employees); $250 per year (21 or more employees)
  • Patron: $100 per year (free admission family plus five guests when accompanied by member)
  • Benefactor: $500 per year (free admission for family plus six guests when accompanied by member)
  • Life: $1,000 (No annual dues and free admission for family plus eight guests when accompanied by member)


About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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