It took almost four years for the Isle to negotiate its new Point Cadet lease. The casino, the city of Biloxi, the Institutions for Higher Learning and the Secretary of State all had to agree to the deal.
Bill Kilduff is the Isle of Capri's General Manager.
"We're thrilled it's over," Kilduff said just before a news conference started. "Hopefully we'll get our building permits and move right ahead."
Kilduff said the 1,000 space garage would be built first. It should open in July. A 400 room hotel will be built after that. It will be right in front of the current hotel.
Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway praised the deal.
"This new agreement will allow us to create jobs, protect the future of Point Cadet and protect the public interest here at Point Cadet," the mayor said.
The new lease agreement benefits more than the Isle of Capri. It paves the way for a major expansion at the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center.
Dr. Sharon Walker has spent the last seven years pushing for improvements at the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center. On Thursday, the aquarium's director got her wish. "I'm probably as excited as we can get for the future of this center right now," she said.
The new Point Cadet lease agreement will initially pay the Marine Education Center $125,000 a year. Once the aquarium's neighbor, the Isle of Capri, builds a parking garage and a hotel, the casino will pay the Marine Education Center up to $333,000 a year in rent.
Secretary of State Eric Clark helped negotiate the lease.
"It shows that by working together, people can combine public access and education with economic development." he said.
To get the Marine Education Center expansion started, the Isle of Capri, the city of Biloxi, the IHL and the Secretary of State have each agreed to split the cost of a $240,000 master plan. Dr. Walker said master plan design work could begin relatively soon. It will be the framework for future improvements at the Point Cadet aquarium.
"I think we will be able to not only expand the educational part, but have the state-of-the-art aquarium," Dr. Walker said.
She was pleased that green space behind the Marine Education Center would be saved because it's "where we hope to have some pavilions and an outside amphitheater. And then we hope to have an IMAX type theater one day."
Those concepts were originally presented in a report released by the IHL more than three years ago. Because of the new Point Cadet lease, the concepts should actually be built. And Dr. Walker's ultimate vision for the Marine Education Center should come true.
The Isle's original plan was to build its parking lot very close to the Marine Education Center. But the new lease moves the garage to a spot right next to the casino. The Secretary of State said that will protect the view, and the access to the water that Biloxi residents currently have.