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Gulfport aquarium design team moving forward with plans

GULFPORT — The team hired to design a waterfront aquarium are in Gulfport this week to discuss plans.

The Sun Herald report PGAV Destinations of St. Louis, Missouri — which designs aquariums, theme parks and other attractions — is expected to have a master plan in place by the end of January. The Mississippi Aquarium will be located on 12 acres the city bought just east of downtown and north of the Gulfport harbor.

The city’s urban-renewal agency, the Gulfport Redevelopment Commission, owns the acreage and is overseeing the project. The city plans an initial investment of $40 million, more than half of which is already committed from the state. The city hopes the rest will come from BP oil catastrophe funding Mississippi is receiving.

If the aquarium is designed as planned, costs could exceed $100 million.

Carole Lynn Meadows, GRC chairwoman, said the attraction might have to be built in phases as money becomes available.

The idea is to design the aquarium around the theme of the Mississippi River meeting the Gulf of Mexico — from brown to blue water.

“This interaction creates a rich and verdant ecosystem which incorporates 3,540 miles of coastline, 33 major river systems, 207 estuaries, 29 marine mammal species, 49 shark species, and countless unique species of fish, birds, and reptiles,” says a PGAV news release issued Tuesday. “The team aims to create a wholly unique experience that explores these fascinating environments and how they impact the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi region.”

After the master plan is in place, final design work begins. The GRC hopes to start construction in 2017 and open the aquarium in the summer of 2018.

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