Gulfport Hires Aquarium Designer, Gets Casino Proposals

GULFPORT, MS (AP) — The Gulfport Redevelopment Commission has chosen an architect for the planned Mississippi Aquarium and says it has received three proposals to develop casinos near the city's harbor.

         The commission announced Wednesday that it had chosen a partnership of Mississippi-based Eley Guild Hardy and PGAV of St. Louis. PGAV has helped design a number of aquariums and tourist attractions. Eley Guild Hardy helped design parts of Gulfport's small craft harbor, which adjoins the aquarium site.

         The Sun Herald’s Anita Lee reports commission attorney Steve Hendrix says all three casino proposals are confidential and declines to release details.

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         A GRC news release says PGAV "is the themed industry's largest independent design firm and has designed over $5 billion in themed entertainment venues," including Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, Universal Studios, Georgia Aquarium, and the Grand Aquarium at Hong Kong's Ocean Park. Bass Pro Shops, National Geographic and the Kennedy Space Center also are PGAV clients.

         The city wants to locate a public aquarium on land it purchased north of U.S. 90 and across from Jones Park.

         Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes has said the aquarium will cost $90 million to $120 million, with $24.5 million in bonds approved by the state Legislature. The city has spent $14 million to buy land.

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