The Gulfport City Council has approved a $35 million bond to keep the finish date for the Mississippi Aquarium on schedule.
Mayor Billy Hewes says the bond needed to be passed to ensure the money would be available if necessary.
“We knew that it was essential for us at this point in the development to continue to not have a hiccup to hit the time lines we have established,” says Hewes.
The aquarium’s timeline requires the facility to be up and running in early 2019. The total cost of the project is estimated at $93 million. $41 million has already been committed by the state.
Councilman Rusty Walker has given assurances that the bond will not cause taxes to be raised. It will ensure that the project can be completed in one phase.
“It only makes sense to build it in one phase because with $300 million of economic impact from a study that USM has done, I think you see it’s a very easy decision for us to make,” says Walker. “If the state comes through with the additional requested funding, the bond money wouldn’t have to be used on the aquarium.”
If the bond is not required it could be used for improvements in the area around the aquarium or for other infrastructure projects. Or, as Mayor Hewes says, “We don’t have to leverage the bonds, we don’t have to have that debt.”
“We are thrilled that the City Council and Mayor believe in this Aquarium and its vision to bring the sights, sounds, and vibrant wildlife of Mississippi and the Gulf Coast to downtown Gulfport,” says David Kimmel, President and CEO of the Mississippi Aquarium. “This decision will help keep the momentum forward to build a world-class facility right here in our own backyard.”
A recent study suggests that the aquarium could create at least 400 jobs and is likely to attract 350,000 visitors a year. The aquarium has been designed by St Louis based architects, PGAV Destinations.