GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The future is bright for the Harbor Lights Winter Festival with a new multi-million dollar deal in the works.
The success of the Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival is sparking up a big investment by Island View Casino Resort.
“We’re going to be committing $2 million over the next 10 years for the Harbor Lights to keep it going. It’s a great success for the city," said Michael Buffey, vice president and general counsel for Island View.
All week, crews have been hard at work removing Christmas lights from trees and breaking down the festival’s signature displays. Downtown in a nearby coffee shop, Gulfport resident Monica Watson reflected on her visit with her three grandchildren.
“They just lost their minds. It was so beautiful, all the lights. They had refreshments, they had rides. The kids really enjoyed the time. It was pretty busy, but I can’t imagine it getting any better than it already is,” she said.
Buffey hopes the resort can maintain its presenting sponsor relationship, which has lasted for nearly five years. Island View is offering $200,000 per year, pending approval from Gulfport City Council. Buffey said he’s excited to see how the Gulf Coast can continue to grow as more major attractions are developed.
“There’s some synergy to having a lot of things in the same area," he said.
The proposal is backed by Carter and Green Investments, LLC, Island View’s parent company.
“You can’t forget that Rick Carter and Terry Green are from Gulfport. They love their city. They support their city, they always have,” Buffey said.
Watson said she plans to make visiting Harbor Lights during the holidays a family tradition.
“That’s something that you don’t have everywhere in every city so they’re going to enjoy it. Having more rides, more attractions, more lights," she said.
Buffey said Island View recently signed an agreement with the Mississippi Aquarium. Over the next 10 years, they will commit $4 million to local attractions.