by Hunter Dawkins

According to Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, construction and design for the Mississippi Aquarium off Highway 90 across from the State Port is happening at a great pace.

“So much of the stuff that has been done in the last 6 months, you’ll never see again,” said Hewes, who was on a construction visit of the facility by David Kimmel, the Mississippi Aquarium Director. “Underground irrigation and infrastructure are coming into place. The main gallery and the main tank are shaping out and everything is going to look awesome pretty soon.”

One concern raised was about the money to this structure. Hewes quickly answered, “This area was set aside after the storm, we needed to make sure we did something spectacular for economic development and tourism with the state’s front yard.”

Hewes referred to the knowledge the city had with building the aquarium on steroids and world-class with the land between Highway 90 and Highway 49. This was a 5-year plan in the making for Gulfport in this area.

Curiosity is the mechanism that will be used to attract families, as the boardwalk reaches out to Highway 90. “The boardwalk is very unique because it faces Jones Park, which helps establish a vista with the eastside having a waterpark associated with our barrier islands,” statedHewes.

The planning process for the Mississippi Aquarium began around late 2014 and the structure is slated to open either late 2019 or early 2020.

Governor Phil Bryant signed off on a revenue bond bill during the 2015 legislative session that authorized $12 million in funding to the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) to support the Mississippi Aquarium.

The governor was also present when the city unveiled the aquarium’s design to the general public in 2016.