Gulfport Plans to Build Large Aquarium Downtown

Tuesday, the Gulfport City Council approved spending $14 million to purchase land for an aquarium in the downtown area. There used to be historic buildings in the vacant downtown lots before Hurricane Katrina washed it all away.

Now nine years later, the city wants to rebuild the area. It envisions expanding Jones Park by adding an aquarium. Chris Vignes, spokesman for the City of Gulfport, says, “This was a great investment for the City of Gulfport to acquire this property. We feel that Jones Park is one of the finest pieces of real estate on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in the southeast. Adding to this will be something for the whole family, something interactive, something fun that everyone can take a part of.”

Gulfport used to have an oceanarium on the west end of Jones Park, but Katrina also took that site away. Executive Director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, Moby Solangi, was the President of the old oceanarium. He’s been advocating for a new aquarium for years and would like to be a part of the downtown project. Solangi says, “Certainly if we have a role to play in that we would like to. We have been part of Gulfport. We want to wish them the very best and we want to be a part of the success of Gulfport.”

Most recently, Solangi tried building an oceanarium in D’Iberville, but that project fell through two months ago after a study determined the site would be too close to Interstate 10. At this point, Gulfport is not partnering with any organizations on the proposed aquarium. The field in between 14th Street and Highway 90 used to be the site of a massive Baptist church before Katrina destroyed it in 2005. Now, Gulfport officials want to convert the area into not just an aquarium, but a major retail center.

Vignes closes, “We’re currently doing a comprehensive study to bring in an aquarium, hotel, retail, several different projects in this area.”

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