Traffic at new Sam's Club could jam an already busy Highway 49 corridor

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - There's nothing better to hear, Gulfport's chief administrative officer said on Thursday, than the sounds of cash registers ringing. The ringing he referred to was inside the new Sam's Club on Landon Road. The new store is expected to generate tax revenue, and traffic in an already heavily congested area of the city.

A crowd of shoppers arrived at the new Sam's Club just as company officials hosted a ribbon cutting.

"Welcome to your Sam's Club 8236," club manager Gordon Mingus said to the people in line.

Some of the new store's 210 employees performed cheers as their first customers entered the 138,000 square foot building.

Martha Patrick was one of the people in line.

"I love it. I came all the way from Anniston, Alabama for this grand opening," she said.

Because of special, opening day deals, the parking lot was jammed. So, several shoppers left their cars in empty lots across the street from the new store. During construction, Sam's Club executives took precautions to ease traffic issues as much as they could. Yet, shopping carts and cars converged in the parking lot. And that created quite a traffic jam.

The roads getting to Sam's Club's new Landon Road location were just as crowded. Elliott McGrew was stuck in the traffic longer than he anticipated.

"I think once the new opening wears off, it will be okay. But right now it's a pain," he said.

To make sure customers had easy access to this store, Sam's reconfigured the Landon Road/Old Highway 49 intersection. Dr. John Kelly is Gulfport's Chief Administrative Officer.

"I would venture to say that if we left the roads intact as they were, congestion would have been a problem. But that doesn't appear to be a problem at all," said Kelly.

The Sam's Club, and a Best Buy you can see through the neighboring brush, are Gulfport's two newest stores in what's becoming a significant shopping district for city sales tax coffers. Both stores are in Councilwoman Barbara Nalley's ward.

"The more businesses I can get in this area, the better it is as far as I'm concerned," she said.

Remember the pedestrian traffic jam getting into Sam's? It was bumper to bumper trying to get out as well. Just the way Sam's Club executives imagined when they relocated from Creosote Road to Landon Road.

"This is a great location," said Mingus.

The Sam's Club manager said his company built this new store so it could do a better job of catering to members.

"For us to have all the new merchandise and all the new updated equipment," Mingus said, "it was time for a 20 year building to be moved to a different location."

As for the old store on Creosote Road, it's empty. And it's on the market. Wal Mart owns the building. And it's trying to sell it. The asking price on line is $4.5 million.

Before the new store opened, Sam's Club managers donated $19,000 to four non-profit groups. The grant recipients included the Humane Society, the Back Bay Mission, Feed the Needy, and the Harrison County Drop Out Prevention program.