By BECKY GILLETTE
What could be more fun than hanging out at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Resort and Hotel in Biloxi? It might be enjoying the beachside amusement park that is currently planned next to the Margaritaville located on Point Cadet.
Milton Segarra, CEO, Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, said by definition amusement parks are exciting. That is even more true when they are also on the beach next to casinos, hotels, restaurants, and opportunities for fishing, sailing and sightseeing.
“It will reshape the traditional landscape of Biloxi,” Segarra said. “It is a $140 million investment by the Barrington Group. It is a game changer–the same thing as the aquarium being built in downtown Gulfport. Having not only the casino component, but this amusement park, as well, is really diversifying the experience of downtown Biloxi. This will give an entirely new perspective to the coast. It gives you another dimension to the very diverse experience that we have. It is undeniably one of the most important projects in the future of the coast.”
Segarra said the expansion of the Margaritaville facilities on the Gulf Coast sends a strong message of how the coast is growing and attracting new and different types of development.
“You have casinos, night life, nature, adventure, gastronomic and culinary offerings, fishing and history,” Segarra said. “Those are the key drivers to attract more and new visitors to the coast. And I can’t say enough about the investors and the owners from the Margaritaville project for trusting the future of this coast. The fact they will add another hotel with more rooms is also a big driver of new business that will attract new visitors coming to the coast and also expand the number of visitors that we have.”
Amusement parks are a popular family destination no matter where they are located. But Segarra said being located next to the Gulf will add to the excitement.
“If you think of all the recent development the Coast has been experiencing like the go-kart facilities and existing museums that the family can enjoy, you have a phenomenal lineup of events and facilities to enjoy,” Segarra said. “What can we expect with this? No. 1, more visitors and No. 2, we have a very powerful brand expanding their facilities and services on the coast. The third thing is that we will have more economic impact to our coast and all of our stakeholders. And four, when you add this to the entertainment arena of the coast, it becomes very diverse. It is a phenomenal opportunity to keep marketing our total package as a unique and very diverse experience for families, adults, sports betting groups and conventions by having all the amenities and attractions of a world-class destination.”
Employment will also get a boost. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said the development will create hundreds of new jobs. Hosemann said the leasing of State-owned tidelands properties for Margaritaville – Phase II is excellent news for Biloxi, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and the state.
“This development should produce millions of dollars for the Tidelands Fund — all of which is spent on the coast,” Hosemann said. “The project will be another great reason for visitors to spend one more day on our Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
Vincent Creel, Public Affairs Manager, city of Biloxi, said there are so many promising aspects of the Margaritaville project that it’s difficult to know where to start.
“And that’s a good thing,” Creel said. “First, Biloxi is dealing with a proven brand, Margaritaville, at a proven location, the Point Cadet waterfront. Margaritaville has been gangbusters since it opened, and that’s a credit to the brand created by the people who envisioned this property. It diversifies our market, and now it’s going to grow our market even more. It’s family entertainment, as in non-gaming, which we all have said we need for years.”
He said it is also noteworthy that the project is being done by the Barrington Group, a firm that just a few years ago built Bay Cove, a multi-million-dollar retirement and assisted living home on Back Bay.
“The firm also recently restored the upscale White House Hotel to its former glory and then shortly after that the firm unveiled the family-oriented Margaritaville Resort to huge crowds in the summer of 2016,” Creel said. “The group also is currently turning the former Santa Maria retirement home north of the Biloxi Small Craft Harbor into the Watermark, a 154-room, all-suites hotel, a $12 million investment that would also feature a restaurant specializing in fresh-caught seafood, and a lounge. This project will create 70 permanent jobs.”
Creel said this company, which has a proven track record in Biloxi, knows a good thing when it sees it, and they know Biloxi and what Biloxi’s visitors want.
“We’re excited as we can be that they have finally received the green light to move forward with their latest venture,” he said.
The new 300-room hotel tower will be built on the property to the west of the current Margaritaville site, with the amusement park in between. No construction timetable has been announced for the project known as Margaritaville Phase II.
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