GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Supporters of the new Mississippi Aquarium say the downtown Gulfport development will attract visitors, promote education and spark economic development.
The city gathered on the nine acre site across from Jones Park on Friday to celebrate the $65 million aquarium project.
"It's a bold vision. It's bolder than many visions we've had in the recent past, and it is one we're all going to be involved in and we're all going to be so proud of," said Carol Lynn Meadows, with the Gulfport Redevelopment Corporation.
Gov. Phil Bryant recalled childhood visits to the old Marine Life. Bryant told the crowd that the Mississippi Aquarium must be built.
"Can you imagine we are here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with no aquarium? No history of this great ocean we call our gulf," said the governor.
Project consultant David Kimmel, also the former president of the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, says the Gulfport project will have a tremendous economic impact.
"The developments that come around there. The businesses that form around it. And the jobs that the aquarium creates itself. The visitation that comes here, that really starts to put dollars into local businesses," Kimmel said.
Mayor Billy Hewes says much planning went into selecting the site, and with good reason.
"And because we have this campus, we have the potential for future growth. And we think it's going to be a phenomenal domino effect as we move forward," said Hewes.
The aquarium is scheduled to open in early 2019, and is expected to employ around 100 people. The attraction will have an annual operating budget of around $10 million.