Study brings economics of Gulfport aquarium into focus

Study brings economics of Gulfport aquarium into focus

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Up to 600 jobs and an economic impact approaching $380 million a year are part of a study by the University of Southern Mississippi that analyzes what the Mississippi Aquarium will mean to Gulfport and the Gulf Coast.

City leaders and the aquarium's lead consultant David Kimmel are just digesting the new findings. Kimmel tells WLOX News Now the preliminary analysis shows the jobs, the revenue and the taxes created by the aquarium should make the project quite successful.

Kimmel says the study's researchers believe the aquarium across from Jones Park will create 400-600 jobs, have an economic impact of $300-380 million, and generate taxes in the $13-20 million range.

Kimmel is using his own numbers to build plans for the Gulfport aquarium. His numbers are based on a conservative estimate of 350,000 people a year walking through turnstiles.

Under his scenario, the aquarium generates $8 million a year in revenue, with expenses topping the $7 million level. Kimmel stresses his attendance numbers are low on purpose, so he can build an effective budget.

Gulfport has $57 million in the bank to start aquarium construction. City leaders have said the total cost of the project could be as much as $93 million.

Because city and state leaders need to find a new revenue stream to complete construction, Gulfport Redevelopment Commission chairperson Carole Lynn Meadows says the project could be built in phases, with the first section opening in early 2019.

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