Editorials

Gulfport aquarium deserves Mississippi's help

COURTESY PGAVThis is the proposed design for the Mississippi Aquarium in downtown Gulfport, with renderings by PGAV of St. Louis and Coast architectutral firm Eley Guild Hardy.
COURTESY PGAVThis is the proposed design for the Mississippi Aquarium in downtown Gulfport, with renderings by PGAV of St. Louis and Coast architectutral firm Eley Guild Hardy.

It's time for Mississippi to repay the Coast.

Gulfport last week unveiled the details of its dream of an aquarium it wants to build across from Jones Park.

It has $40 million to build it and it needs at least another $20 million for animals.

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes says he believes the Legislature will OK a bond bill to provide the funding but that money might be paid over time rather than in one lump.

We prefer the lump sum.

This is a solid investment for the entire state.

Don't put the Coast on a payment plan that could be derailed by an economic downturn.

Hewes said since 2008, 70 percent of the bond money spent on museums and attractions has gone to Jackson while 10 percent has come to the Coast.

That's out of whack and money for the aquarium would be the perfect way to restore some balance.

An aquarium in downtown Gulfport will solidify the Coast's standing in the tourism market.

Its backers expect an additional 500,000 people will visit because of the aquarium and that's money in the state's pocket.

An aquarium would give visitors in town for a ballgame or to try their luck at one of the casinos a reason to stay one more day at least.

Those visitors will spend money at hotels, restaurants, casinos and the other attractions the Coast offers. And they'll pay taxes as they spend.

For years, we've been sending hundreds of millions in tax dollars to the state treasury.

The casino industry alone sent a quarter of a billion dollars to the state last year. Casino revenue intended for roads on the Coast and northwest Mississippi have gone to repay bonds to build and maintain roads and bridges throughout the entire state.

Let's keep that money flowing. Let's build the Mississippi Aquarium.

The sooner it's open for business, the better for Mississippi.

This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists, and cartoonists are their own.

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