BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - One of the biggest stars at this week’s All-Star game is MGM Park itself.
It was built in 2015 and since then, city leaders say it has been a catalyst for Biloxi’s downtown growth. The sound of fans enjoying a Shuckers game at MGM Park is music to the ears of city leaders.
When the stadium opened 4 years ago, the city was optimistic that the home for its new minor league baseball team would bring in more than 4,100 people a game.
Last year, an average of just 2,400 fans attended each home game. Average attendance so far this year sits at 2300. It’s not the numbers many were hoping for, but some say it’s still the early innings.
“There are a lot of things happening I think because of it. It just takes time. And everybody wants things to happen real fast. I know I do, but sometimes in business, sometimes you have to wait til the time is exactly right," said Margaret Wilcox, who lives downtown.
City leaders say there are promising signs of the stadium's role downtown.
“On game nights, go to the downtown restaurants. You’re going to see that there’s a marked improvement in business on those nights. You see people moving around downtown, which is exciting," said Bill Raymond, Biloxi’s historical administrator.
New developments near the stadium could continue that momentum. Just blocks away, new hotels are opening. A revitalized Howard Avenue is a short walk from the park. That’s where plans for the District on Howard - a mix of food, retail and housing - are underway.
And one of the city's two new walkways connects MGM Park with the Beau Rivage.
“More things happening downtown is going to put more things in to the stadium, and more people in the stadium is going to be more business downtown," said Raymond.
“It’s added something there. You know, it was a vacant piece of property, so it’s wonderful that we have people coming," said Kay Miller, Biloxi’s downtown services manager and Main Street executive director.
"Two thousand to 5,500 people a game coming downtown, who wouldn’t be coming if it wasn’t there. So, that’s really how you have to look at it,” Miller explained.
Since the park opened in 2015, more than 745,000 people have attended.