GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - A historic moment years in the making, the Mississippi Aquarium finally cut the ribbon Friday afternoon.
A VIP reception followed for those who have helped the project along over the last few years.
While the project may have tested our patience, it appears to be well worth the wait. The finished facilities are state of the art, and the astounding wildlife is second to none.
Several of the politicians and VIPS that were in attendance Friday stressed how huge this is for South Mississippi.
“Everyone just seems in awe of this place. I think it was more than anyone expected once they actually got in here and got to see it,” said attendee Whitney Hines.
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes echoed that sentiment as he addressed the crowd holding his grandson in his arms.
“This is why we do it. Many of us never thought we would see this day. This is a monument to all of us, to our ability to recover, to the resiliency of our community and our spirit,” Hewes said.
It is the same community that many expect to benefit from the aquarium’s creation for years to come.
“Oh, I think it is mesmerizing. It is like your underwater with all the animals and the fish and all the sounds of everything. It is just fantastic. It is a great thing for the Coast and for Mississippi,” said attendee Lea Kemp.
It seems many have already picked out a favorite exhibit as multiple attendees commented on the glass tunnel that allows visitors to walk through a large aquarium tank.
This massive project was only possible due to the contributions of the city, state, and private funds.
Overall, the new landmark showing a roughly $100 million investment in the Gulf Coast.
Looking closer at the numbers, according to the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission, the State of Mississippi put over $28 million into the project.
Just under $17 million came from the Restore Act, $8 million came from GOMESA Funds, with $35 million coming straight from the City of Gulfport.
The Gulfport Redevelopment Commission chipped in $10.5 million along with the $3.5 million that the MSAQ foundation contributed.
That comes out to over $102 million in funding toward the construction and development of this state of the art facility.
As of Aug. 11, spending was still under $94 million dollars.