GULFPORT- The City of Gulfport gears up for the Mississippi Aquarium and there is good news when it comes to funding.
Ground has been broken!
Aquarium consultant David Kimmel said that just last week City Council approved the bid for the site development contractor WC4. On March 9, work officially began.
“Our design is complete to the balance of the project and we expect to bid out the balance of the work this summer,” said Kimmel.
The aquarium plans to be self-supporting. Currently, the construction is being funded by a number of sources. The city put up the $14 million for the purchase of the land. Legislators provided $24.5 million for the initial funding of the project and they expect another $17 million from Restore Act monies, or BP.
Organizers also plan to do their own fundraising. This money will allow them to open up the aquarium debt-free.
“We are expected to open up in early 2019,” said Kimmel.
The layout of this aquarium is a little different than the norm. It’s more of an ‘open campus’ style. When you come in you’ll see a freshwater river that runs through the center. Surrounding the river there will be galleries of animals representing the coast including alligators, grouper, dolphins, and of course sharks.
“We are also going to have an area where we bring in new exhibits. That way every time someone comes in there is always something new to see,” said Kimmel.
Staff hiring will begin soon and will build up from now until opening day.
“The aquarium is real, it is on the move, and I look forward to welcoming guests in 2019 to a facility that they just love. This is the communities aquarium,” said Kimmel.
Kimmel was previously in charge of the development of the Georgia Aquarium that opened in 2005. He was also there for the expantion of that aquarium as the development manager. In 2010 he was asked to be the president and chief operating officer of that same aquarium.
He was brought on by Gulfport to help bring an aquarium to Mississippi in 2015.