Copa Owners Close Deal To Buy Grand Gulfport

You could excuse Rick Carter if he looked a bit anxious walking along the Hancock Bank roof.

"Say after me, debt is a good thing. Debt is a good thing," a banker yelled toward the casino executive.

Carter smiled and said, "It better be a good thing."

Carter was on the roof, taking pictures of his latest investment. Down below was the 40 acre Grand Casino Gulfport resort that his company just bought.

As he looked toward his new property, Carter laughed, "I'm thinking how much money I owe now, because it's a lot. But it's a good thing. It's a good thing. We're very fortunate to be able to do this."

Carter and his partner Terry Green paid an undisclosed amount of money to take over Grand's site.

"It's really kind of hard to believe," said Green. "You almost have to pinch yourself every now and then."

The partners expect the hurricane damaged Oasis Hotel to sparkle again. Their plan is to take advantage of new on shore gaming rules and turn the Oasis lobby space into its casino.

"This whole area will be completely gutted and brought back very, very upscale," said Carter, just inside the front door of his new resort.

Operating what was Grand's Resort is a radical departure for Carter and Green. Before this purchase, they ran two other Port of Gulfport casinos, the Pride of Mississippi and the Copa Casino. Neither one of those projects had access to a hotel. This venture has access to two hotels. And they happen to be on either side of Highway 90.

"I think it just moves us up to the next level," Green said.

Carter was almost giddy.

"I'm as excited as I've been in a long time. I mean it's another phase for Terry and I. We've stepped up to another level," he said.

The plan is for the Oasis to be renovated and open by Labor Day.

Renovation designs for the southside of Highway 90 haven't been finalized yet. There is some activity along the waterfront.

As part of the sale, Harrah's Entertainment had to hire demolition experts to tear down the hurricane damaged casino barges. As the final purchase papers were being signed, demolition equipment tossed water logged slot machines off Grand's hurricane ravaged casino barge.

The clean up work started about a week ago. And it's supposed to be done by July.