Gulfport approves $52 million bid to build downtown aquarium

Gulfport approves $52 million bid to build downtown aquarium

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport's city council is ready to see construction at the Mississippi Aquarium site. Moments ago, the council approved the $52,133,000 bid submitted by the Roy Anderson Corp. and authorized the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission to accept the bid. The GRC must also ratify the contract with Roy Anderson's construction team. That board meets Thursday.

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes moved the bid approval up, saying the contract was negotiated, and he'd like it signed before 2017 ends. Tuesday was the last time the Gulfport City Council had a meeting on the calendar this year. Getting both agencies to okay the construction contract this week would help the mayor meet his deadline.

The Mississippi Aquarium is a $93 million investment in downtown Gulfport. More than half of the funding for the project comes from the state. The final $35 million got financed by the Gulfport City Council when it approved a $35 million bond to make sure the aquarium had the money it needed to be finished. Gulfport taxpayers are responsible for paying back that bond.

Bid delays in the fall pushed back the eventual opening of the tourist attraction to late 2019 or early 2020.

Back in March, Mayor Hewes touted the importance of the aquarium to his city and to South Mississippi. "It's going to be a real focal point for the entire Gulf Coast," said Hewes. "A lot of folks said, 'Is it going to be real?' Yes, it's going to be real. It's going to be huge and it will be transformational."

Over the summer, crews hauled tons of dirt to the Highway 90 location. The dirt work raised the property's elevation and formed the aquarium's foundation. That dirt base now sits behind a chain link fence, just waiting for that next big splash, when construction teams bring the Mississippi Aquarium out of the newly created ground.

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