The designs for the $65 million Mississippi Aquarium planned for downtown Gulfport was revealed to the general public at a meeting on Friday.
200 people gathered as Mayor Billy Hewes, Gov. Phil Bryant and others detailed the plans for the new aquarium and discussed the many benefits it will bring to the Gulfport region.
Gulfport and a Unique Aquarium
Aquarium expert David Kimmel was in attendance. His company, Georgia-based Kimmel Management Services was recently chosen by the city to develop and manage the new aquarium.
He said that one key aspect that would set the aquarium apart from its competitors would be its campus-style design. Its anchor outdoor exhibit will be another unique feature.
Most aquariums, Kimmel said, are in one building. However, Gulfport’s new Aquarium will comprise four buildings together with an outdoor exhibit as the anchor. The latter is feasible owing to the region’s mild climate.
St. Louis-based architects PGAV Destinations designed the aquarium. The build emphasises the natural environment and the flow of water from rivers to the sea. Upon arriving, visitors will encounter a river exhibit which affords them views both above and below the water via acrylic walls, a feature that is repeated throughout the aquarium, both indoor and outdoor. The river will showcase otters and alligators alongside regional freshwater fish. A dolphin exhibit is sited at the opposite end.
The Gulf Community Gallery, a three storey structure, will have one body of water with a dozen different views. The top will be a touch pool including a stingray exhibit. Visitors will be surrounded by a shark exhibit with acrylic walls.
Kimmel said, “What acrylic allows us to do, is get people immersed in the exhibit itself.”
Other buildings on the the campus will include an entry building, an aviary and a life support building to maintain water quality.
Big Projects are not for the Faint of Heart
The city already has the $40 million for construction and estimates a further $20 million will be needed to create the exhibits and source the animals.
Construction in Gulfport should commence in spring 2017, when engineering and other preliminary work is finished.
Architect David Hardy of Coast firm Eley Guild Hardy, who also worked on the design along with PGAV Destinations, said the aquarium should be stocked with animals in the Autumn of 2018. The attraction will be open in early 2019.
Bryant told the crowd, “Big projects are not for the faint of heart. We can do what we imagine. Not only do we want to do it, we must do it. Can you imagine that we are on the Mississippi Gulf Coast without an aquarium?”
Gulfport previously had an aquarium but this had been deystroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Hews expects the new Mississippi Aquarium to attract up to half a million visitors a year.