Gulfport merchants excited about aquarium project

Gulfport merchants excited about aquarium project

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Merchants in downtown Gulfport are excited about the proposed $65 million aquarium project. The proposed tourist attraction is expected to attract a large number of visitors each year; which means potential customers for nearby businesses.

The proposed Mississippi Aquarium project has caught the attention of nearby merchants in downtown Gulfport. The owner of Tony's Brick Oven pizza says thousands of aquarium visitors will no doubt be looking for places to shop and eat.

"And it would be families, which is what we serve here at Tony's. We have a lot of families that come in and eat," said Tony Swigris.

A few blocks from the aquarium site, the team at Chandeleur Brewing Company is equally optimistic about the benefits of the proposed aquarium.

"We can't wait. That's going to be a great addition to downtown, it's going to be huge. It's going to draw so many tourists that we need in this region. And it's just going to draw more people to the brewery as well," said brewery general manager, Brandon Lewis.

For downtown merchants, the aquarium project is a numbers game; an impressive increase in foot traffic.

A marketing study suggests the aquarium could draw up to a half a million visitors per year. And if merchants can attract just a small percentage of those folks downtown, it'll be great news for them.

"We definitely do depend on that foot traffic to thrive on," said Sean Howell of P.J.'s Coffee Shop, just three blocks away from the proposed aquarium. "I think it's good, I think it's going to be excellent. I think that it's going to do numbers. However, that's going to bring more foot traffic for the area."

The Gulfport's mayor says the aquarium project has generated as much excitement as anything seen in recent years. Downtown merchants are certainly enthusiastic about the possibilities. 

Merchants say with Fishbone Alley now under construction, and new businesses opening in downtown Gulfport, the aquarium would be a welcome addition to enhance the ongoing growth.

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