At a press conference this morning, plans for a new aquarium facility, the Mississippi Aquarium, to be built in Gulfport, Mississippi were revealed. In a few short years, Gulfport will be the home of one of the world’s newest and most innovative aquariums. This project is being designed by PGAV Destinations, an architecture firm in St. Louis.
The new $65-million facility will take up about half of a 10-acre undeveloped plot of land near the Gulfport harbor, and interest has already been expressed in building a hotel near the aquarium to transform Gulfport into a family-friendly vacation destination. Once the aquarium is open in early to mid 2019, it is expected to attract over half a million visitors annually and bring over 100 new jobs to the Gulfport area.
From the concept art, the aquarium appears to have a very unique setup of its campus. Rather than being entirely self-contained in a single building like many other aquariums, the galleries and exhibits appear to be spread out across the campus. This will allow visitors to the aquarium to enjoy the outdoor weather and atmosphere while appreciating the unique coastal location on the gulf.
The aquarium’s central theme will be taking guests on a journey that mirrors the path of the Mississippi river; that is, they will travel through ecosystems starting at the river’s freshwater origins and eventually reaching the saltwater gulf. Guests will be able to experience these different aquatic and marine ecosystems across four different gallery structures and four outdoor exhibits across the facility’s campus.
Some of the outdoor exhibits will appear to be linked and essentially form a miniature river. The river portions of the exhibit trail will be home to alligators, otters, and river fish, and they will terminate in a dolphin lagoon. These outdoor exhibits will reflect the path of the Mississippi river that eventually empties into the gulf.
The main gallery structure will be a three-level building known as the Gulf Community Gallery. This building will probably be home to the shark tunnel aquarium seen in the concept art above. This gallery will consist of one major marine exhibit that guests will be able to see from many different angles and perspectives. An aviary is also planned to be a part of the aquarium’s exhibit lineup.
Upon the aquarium’s opening, guests can expect to find lots of interactive experiences and exhibits throughout the campus, and in this way the aquarium hopes to find the perfect balance between being both educational and fun. The interactive experiences should appeal to both children and adults, making the aquarium a perfect destination for families to learn about marine life and habitats and how to protect them. One such interactive experience will be a stingray touch area located in the main Gulf Community Gallery.
The aquarium hopes to raise awareness and appreciation for the unique wildlife on the Mississippi gulf coast, and it also plans on becoming a center for marine research. Already, the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State University have signed on as research partners with the aquarium, and they plan on participating in research on both freshwater and saltwater ecosystems as well as in veterinary science.
Construction of the aquarium will begin in 2017, and animals will start arriving at the aquarium home in the end of 2018. Upon its opening, the aquarium plans to pursue accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Over 70 species of animals will be on display at the aquarium for visitors to learn about and connect with, and that means 2019 will be a very exciting year in Gulfport.
Story via Sun Herald