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Regional Visitors Center reopens, officials share what’s bring visitors to Port Arthur & surrounding region

The building every Southeast Texan sees when traveling between Texas and Louisiana has reopened after being out of commission for more than a year.

Ben J. Rogers Regional Visitors Center, located off Interstate 10 near the state line, took on 8 inches of rain during Topical Storm Imelda in September, 2019.

“We had a company come in and do the remediation and another company won the bid to do the repairs,” Director Kathi Hughes said. “During the repairs, the floors were damaged. That is what took longer because of the type of floor it is. It had to be researched and everything.”

Hughes said the center received some new paint to give it a “fresh and modern look.”

The center helps direct travelers to tourist destinations within the state, including regional attractions such as Spindletop, local museums and eateries. Hughes said birders make up a significant percentage of travelers, especially in the middle of the pandemic.

The legend and story of Janis Joplin continues to attract visitors to Port Arthur, according to visitors center officials. (Courtesy photo)

“We don’t have as many birds that migrate away from here because it is generally warm year round,” she said. “You can always see shore birds. We have birders that bird all year long. People come from all over to look at birds here.”

Hughes said the most fruitful time to see birds in the area is nearing.

“The biggest time is around March and April,” she said.

One of the top biggest attractions is a late, local music legend.

“One of our most requested subjects is Janis Joplin,” Hughes said. “People come from all over come to learn more about her.”

Fishing and Sea Rim State Park are also attractions, Hughes said. The visitor center also helps locals. The director said locals often come by and ask for ideas for stay-cations.

The world is also a much different place from when Imelda saturated Southeast Texas. The coronavirus pandemic changed the way people and businesses interact with one another.

Hughes said a section of the lobby is marked off and employees bring brochures to people instead of having them thumb through in order to limit the amount of touching.

“What makes us really sad is that we can’t serve complimentary coffee right now,” Hughes said. “People had really gotten used to getting a cup of coffee when they get off Interstate 10. The reason we are here is two fold. We want to get people off the road for safety reasons. We want them to get out, walk around and wake up. We want to get them rejuvenated. We have the cleanest restrooms in Texas. We also want to get people off of I-10 to see the great things we have here.”

The Visitors Center, which reopened Jan. 20, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Summer hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. begin May 30.

Birders make up a significant percentage of travelers, especially in the middle of the pandemic.