May 12, 2018
By Kendra Ablaza
Mississippi is about to begin construction on what state leaders hope is the next big boost to the state tourism industry.
On Friday, May 11, 2018, the groundbreaking ceremony for the Mississippi Aquarium on Friday was the latest step in a process that began nearly four years ago when plans were first developed for the project that will sit on 5.8 acres in Gulfport and feature more than 80,000 square feet of exhibits.
Friday’s outdoor ceremony at 15th Street and 21st Avenue featured Gov. Phil Bryant, Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes and other city, state and federal representatives, including U.S. Congressman Steven Palazzo.
Bryant, a longtime supporter of the aquarium, highlighted in his speech the benefits of boosting Mississippi’s tourism industry and revenue through legacy projects like the aquarium and other tourist attractions around the state, such as the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson; The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience in Meridian; the B.B. King Museum in Indianola and the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in Cleveland.
The planning process for the Mississippi Aquarium began around late 2014 and the structure is slated to open either late 2019 or early 2020.
Bryant signed off on a revenue bond bill during the 2015 legislative session that authorized $12 million in funding to the Mississippi Development Authority to support the Mississippi Aquarium. But MDA is not managing the project, said its senior public relations specialist, Jim Beaugez.
The governor was also present when the city unveiled the aquarium’s design to the general public in 2016.
The aquarium, slated to go up at 2100 E. Beach Blvd., in Gulfport, is expected to attract 487,000 people per year on average and help bring in $340 million in annual revenue for the Gulfport region.
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