GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The City of Gulfport recently made a big move — bringing a $70-million aquarium to a piece of land on Highway 90.
The Gulfport Redevelopment Commission selected a design team made up of a local firm and an internationally-known business. The same company that designed world-famous attractions such as Busch Gardens and Universal Studios could be designing the Mississippi Aquarium at Gulfport.
"It's an exciting time for the City of Gulfport, so it will happen," said Gulfport Chief Administrative Officer Dr. John Kelly.
After reviewing five proposals, the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission selected the team of PGAV of St. Louis, Missouri, and Eley Guild Hardy, which has offices in Gulfport, Biloxi and Jackson. Eley Guild Hardy has designed numerous projects in Gulfport, including the police headquarters and Jones Park.
PGAV is known as the largest independent theme park designer in the world.
"What we saw on yesterday, which is just a preview of their ideas for the aquarium itself, was very exciting," said Kelly. "They have built some world-class stuff all over the world literally. We wanted someone, of course, who knew the theme park business, knew the aquarium industry. So they were chosen for their expertise."
Once contract negotiations are finalized, the GRC wants to get input from the public; especially ideas for the exhibits.
"We wanted this aquarium to be a Mississippi aquarium, unlike anything else you would go anywhere else in the world to see," Kelly added.
The aquarium will go up on ten acres of land, right across from Jones Park. Many people were thrilled when they heard the project was moving forward.
"I think it's great, we really do need one around town. I was really excited when they said there was going to be one in D'Iberville, but that fell through. So it would be nice to have that kind of attraction over here," said Biloxi resident Alicia Hickman.
The state legislature has already approved $24.5 million for the project. The city hopes to receive additional funding through the Restore Act and a capital campaign. If all goes as planned, the aquarium could be open by summer of 2018.