GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport city leaders are excited about plans to build a world class aquarium downtown, but what does the public think about the project?
The city's plan to build a $100 million plus aquarium at the former site of the First Baptist Church is certainly attracting attention.
Most of the reaction WLOX News heard on Wednesday was favorable.
The Gulfport City Council has agreed to move forward with the $14 million purchase of 10 parcels of property for the aquarium.
Located right across the highway from Jones Park, the project would also include retail elements and a hotel.
"Absolutely, it would interest me. Right now, the nearest aquarium would be New Orleans, and you have to drive an hour to get there. I think to have a local aquarium would be a fantastic idea," said Gulfport resident Mark Hopkins.
The aquarium project was certainly a topic of conversation at the annual Kiwanis pancake event downtown. John Morash says children would benefit from the educational aspect.
"When they're exposed to the different varieties, especially octopus and maybe a couple of sharks, small in size, it enhances their educational knowledge of the oceans around us," Morash explained.
Pam Patano supports the idea and has fond memories of Marine Life in Gulfport.
"A lot of schools took field trips there. I went there with my children on field trips and other times. So yeah, I think it would be great," Patano said.
"It's great. They should build a new one. I'm waiting for it. My kids love the aquarium. We go to the one in New Orleans, then we're back here on the Coast. It would be great to build an aquarium," said Kiln resident Jeff Zimmerman.
Not everyone we talked with was all onboard with the project. There were some comments along the lines of, "I'll believe it when I see it." Not necessarily opposed to the aquarium project, but skeptical.
One of the pastors at First United Methodist says he'd welcome an aquarium project as a downtown neighbor.
"I think it's a great idea. I think it's going to be a boom for the downtown area, and it's just going to be a great addition. Something we've needed for a long time," said the Rev. Oscar McGough.
The aquarium itself would cost in the neighborhood of $100 million. The City of Gulfport is in discussions with prospective developers of the project.