TSA, U.S.S. Lexington welcome first visitors since pandemic

The U.S. S. Lexington Museum employee tests positive for COVID-19
The Texas State Aquarium is scaling back visitor capacity because of the recent COVID-19 surge
Posted at 3:25 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 23:43:25-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Two popular tourist attractions opened today for the first time since the pandemic.

The U.S.S. Lexington Museum and the Texas State Aquarium both welcomed visitors with new social-distancing visitation plans and precautions in place.

Friday's opening was the first time that either attraction had been open for visitors in eight weeks.

As visitors walked up the pier to the U.S.S. Lexington Friday morning, they were greeted by the Ingleside Marching Band and special patriotic decor for the reopening ceremony.

“We really want to celebrate the reopening of this historic ship. And especially for Memorial Day weekend where we’re honoring all of those who have gone before us and made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.” Exec. Director of U.S.S. Lexington Museum Steve Banta said.

One of the very first visitors in line was Daniel Strzinek -- a recent high school graduate who has been waiting to take his senior pictures on board the Lexington.

He is enlisting in the United States Navy and leaves for boot camp shortly.

"We really wanted to come down and make the most of this opportunity. Celebrate Corpus Christi, celebrate the Lexington and celebrate Daniel as he enters into the military,” his mother, Jill Strzinek said.

Over at the Aquarium, tourists and local members were eager to visit.

Tiffany Rivera and her family are long time members at the aquarium. She typically takes her son to see the animals about five times a month.

“We love coming here. It’s like a therapy to him and it brings joy to us," Rivera said. "We’re excited to be back.”

And the aquarium is excited to have guests back.

President and CEO of the Texas State Aquarium Tom Schmid said the facility lost about $3.3 million during its pandemic-related closure.

The Aquarium's annual operating budget is in the range of $16 million-$17 million.

"So that’s a pretty big chunk of our operating budget that is now gone." Schmid said. "It’s still going to be a challenging year but at least we’re open now, we are generating operating revenue and so I’m confident that we’ll be able to get through the summer and get through the fall as well.“

Face coverings are not required but are encouraged at both attractions.