GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It was a big day for the Mississippi Aquarium as many gathered for a "Sail-ebration", the kick-off to construction for the $65 million Gulfport Development.
Business leaders, community members and public officials celebrated the project they said will bring education, entertainment, and even economic development to Gulfport.
"When children have a positive interaction with nature and wildlife, they are much more likely to have a positive relationship for preserving this wonderful world we've been given," said Carole Lynn Meadows, the co-founder of Lynn Meadows Discovery Center.
Mississippi Aquarium President and CEO David Kimmel said the project is already having an impact in our community. "I've been told that since we've started construction, the Markham hotel folks have pulled their demolition permit, Centennial plaza has started work and I've seen the workers out there," said Kimmel.
"The MS aquarium will impact our entire state," said Robin Robinson with Sanderson Farms.
Business leaders said the development will create lasting family memories and increase tourism in the magnolia state. Governor Phil Bryant stated, "You probably won't read or hear much about this. so I want to tell you about it today. Twenty-three million. That's how many visitors we had to the state of Mississippi just last year. Twenty-three million came to see a state of 3 million."
The aquarium will provide many job opportunities. Kimmel said he expects to hire 60 to 70 people and 40 to 50 part-time employees.
"We're doing it not just for you, and not for your grandchildren, but as I tell Myles all the time, we're doing it for your grandchildren's grandchildren. Because this is the kind of project that is transformational," said Councilman Rusty Walker.
The aquarium is slated to open 2019 or early 2020. It will include 12 habitats, a million gallons of water and a great variety of fish, turtles, dolphins river otters and gators.