Harrison County

Gulfport balcony crashes down to make way for aquarium

Boom! Balcony’s down at old Big Mike’s location

The balcony of the buildng that was once Big Mike's Speakeasy is demolished Monday to make way for new aquarium.
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The balcony of the buildng that was once Big Mike's Speakeasy is demolished Monday to make way for new aquarium.

The balcony came crashing down Monday morning at what used to be Big Mike’s Speakeasy.

W.C. “Cotton” Fore, owner of W.C. Trucking, said his company will today remove remnants of the two-story building. Big Mike’s has relocated to 25th Avenue in downtown Gulfport.

Fore’s company is the first contractor on the city’s ambitious Mississippi Aquarium project.

Fore submitted the low bid of $1.1 million for aquarium site work. Fore Trucking also will install drainage and haul in 80,000 yards of dirt, or 4,000 truckloads. The dirt will be hauled south on Cowan-Lorraine Road, then west on U.S. 90 to the aquarium site on the waterfront downtown.

Fore is now installing a cyclone fence around the downtown aquarium acreage. Portions of 22nd and 21st avenues south of 15th Street, and 14th Street between 22nd and 21st, will be closed and will become part of the aquarium grounds.

A second building, an empty church on 15th Street, also will be demolished. Fore said Monday that he doesn’t expect to take down the church for a couple of weeks because asbestos must be removed.

The city has approved a $93 million aquarium budget, which does not include an estimated $20 million for animals. The biggest single cost is $56 million for construction. The state has pledged $42 million in bonds and funding from the BP oil catastrophe.

The city sees the aquarium as a regional tourist attraction with outdoor and indoor exhibits designed to mirror the Coast’s environment of fresh and salt water.

The aquarium is scheduled to open in early 2019.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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