Port Authority may make some adjustments

GULFPORT - The State Port Authority could make two adjustments to its leases with tenants at this morning's monthly commission meeting.

Gulfside Casino Partnership has proposed a 15-year extension to its lease which it said will help future financing efforts. The port also expects to enter into a 3-to-5 year lease with DuPont while the company tries to figure out how to handle the ore shipments that used to go through the port.

Gulfside operates the Island View Casino, which posted first month revenues of about $8.7 million in what used to be the Grand Oasis hotel. It's trying to get its ducks in a row for its next round of expansion by extending the lease to 50 years.

"When we go back to our lenders on the phase for across the street, we'll have the extension already in hand," said Rick Carter, who owns Gulfside with Terry Green. "It'll show how the port wants to cooperate and help us expand."

The casino must control land adjacent to the water as part of the new land-based casino legislation. The port leases the land south of U.S. 90 to Gulfside, which assumed the lease from Harrah's Entertainment, the parent company of the Grand.

Gulfside pays $800,000 a year for casino revenues up to $25 million, then 5 percent of revenue beyond that.

It sent its extension proposal to the port Monday. Commissioners could decide to approve it today.

"Nobody really foresees a problem," said Don Allee, the port's executive director, "but the board may say, 'Let's do this later, we haven't had time to look at it.'

DuPont has been exploring how best to receive shipments of the ilmenite ore it uses in operations at its DeLisle plant. Its handling equipment at the port's west pier was destroyed by Katrina.

The port prefers to turn the west pier exclusively into a container terminal. It would require shifting DuPont's operations to the east pier, but the port also remains uncertain about the company's future deep-water port needs.

The stopgap three-year lease, with the option to extend two more years, gives both sides time to explore their options.

"We continue to search for the best long-term port facility partner, and the Port of Gulfport is certainly one of the options being considered," DuPont spokesman Nate Pepper said.