Harrison County

No tax increase from $35 million loan on Mississippi Aquarium, Gulfport says

W.C. Fore Trucking is currently raising the ground at the Mississippi Aquarium site in downtown Gulfport. Construction is expected to begin later this summer and be finished in early 2019.
W.C. Fore Trucking is currently raising the ground at the Mississippi Aquarium site in downtown Gulfport. Construction is expected to begin later this summer and be finished in early 2019. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to borrow $35 million for construction of the Mississippi Aquarium, but only after the administration said no tax increase will be needed to pay off the bonds.

The city previously touted the fact that the $93 million aquarium would be debt free, but Chief Administrative Officer John Kelly said the city would look at repaying some of the bond debt with aquarium revenue if necessary. The city also expects an increase in sales and gaming taxes to help pay off the debt.

Ultimately, the city is asking the state Legislature for $30 million in additional money for the aquarium. Kelly said the city decided to go ahead and borrow money in case the legislative funding does not come through. The funding was not approved during the 2017 session, but the city will ask again in January.

The state has so far provided $24.5 million in funds, plus $17.5 million from the 2010 BP oil catastrophe.

Construction on the tourist attraction is expected to start later this summer on waterfront property the city assembled in downtown Gulfport.

The aquarium will feature a campus-style design anchored by an outdoor exhibit. Construction is expected to be finished in early 2019.

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