Business

First a flying bar, now a $12 million ride. New fun planned for Margaritaville Resort.

Building permits are issued for the amusement park at Margaritaville Resort Biloxi and Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said Wednesday the centerpiece will be a $12 million Ferris wheel.

The amusement park was one of more than a dozen projects Gilich detailed at the Biloxi Chamber’s Breakfast with the Mayor at Golden Nugget Casino.

Next door, work is under way to build the park on the west side of Margaritaville. Councilman Kenny Glavan, area director of hotel operations for Leisure & Lodging Investments that owns and operates Margaritaville, said columns are being prefabricated in Moss Point. The platform will go on top of those columns, he said, and the Ferris wheel, Aerobar and other rides on the platform will connecting to the existing resort.

The rides are being made in Europe, the developers said, and along with the super-size Ferris wheel, bumper cars, flying swings and a Music Express, people are especially interested in the sky bar, the first in the United States.

“People wonder how it works,” Glavan said. “It just slowly rises,” he said, with a bar in the middle and views out to the barrier islands. “You enjoy drinks and some conversation,” he said.

Jerry Creel, Biloxi’s community development director, said the amusement park is a big addition to the city. “Biloxi has gaming and shopping. We have restaurants. We have residential, and now we’re getting family entertainment,” he said “which is something people have asked for since Hurricane Katrina.”

Now that Leisure & Lodging has opened Centennial Plaza, Glavan said the company is working on plans for a hotel on the east side of the amusement park. The downtown hotel the company is developing across from the Small Craft Harbor has a new name — Hotel Legends — and Glavan said the all-suites hotel is scheduled to open in the spring.

Gilich also spoke about a proposed convention center in East Biloxi and said the developers have applied for a share of the millions in BP funds for the Coast. The developers envision a $250 million resort with 500 hotel rooms, he said, and the operators of the East Biloxi casinos want to make sure it also works for them.

“We all want new business,” he said, and he compared the proposal for another convention center to having a baby: “Easy to conceive, hard to deliver.”

Among the other updates Gilich provided are:

With Tidelands money, phase II of the West Biloxi Boardwalk will start soon, extending the boardwalk along the water from Veterans Avenue to Treasure Bay Casino. Gilich said Biloxi casinos generate $8.5 million of the $10 million in Tideland grants distributed every year. “We want our fair share,” he said.

The former Barq’s Root Beer building on Keller Avenue is being turned into an eatery. “It’s going to be as original as possible,” Gilich said of the restoration. “It’s another part of our history.”

Repairs have started on the exterior of Saenger Theatre under a 300-day contract. Biloxi has asked for another $2 million from Mississippi Development Authority to start restoration of the inside, said Mike Leonard, chief administrative officer. Gilich envisioned dance recitals and local plays staged there again and said those who answered Biloxi’s request for proposals to operate the theater were in awe of the Saenger and what it could become when restored.

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Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.
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