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More than $650 Million Underway in Destination Development And Growth on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast

GulfCoastNews.com/Harrison County Tourism Commission

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Under Construction

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Biloxi broke ground February 10, 2004, and is scheduled to open summer 2005. The $235 million resort will feature a 306-room hotel, approximately 50,000 square feet of gambling space, a parking garage, pool and spa, buffet, steakhouse, grill, and Hard Rock Café, a top floor nightclub and a Hard Rock Live club, which is expected to attract national and local performers.  Contact: Joe Billhimer, general manager, 228-374-7625.

 Isle of Capri Casino Resort Expands

The Isle of Capri is currently working on a $170 million expansion of its Biloxi property.  The $79 million hotel expansion, scheduled to open in spring 2005, will include a 400-room hotel, a 12,000 sq. ft. multi-purpose center, up to 22,000 total square feet of flexible meeting space, a Caribbean-themed casual dining restaurant and rum bar, and a pool and spa. Plans are also underway for the Isle’s 12-year old gaming barge to be replaced with a new $90 million casino that will have more gaming space and several new amenities.  Contact: Michael Giunti, public relations manager, 228-436-7875.

 Palace Opens Sports Zone

Super Bowl Sunday 2004, Palace Casino Resort opened a $15 million expansion known as the Sports Zone. The sports-themed gaming barge features the longest bar on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, which is more than 300 feet. Other amenities include approximately 50 televisions hooked up to DirecTV, a 300-foot-long ticker continuously running the latest ESPN scores and statistics, leather theater-style seats and sofas placed in front of a wall-sized TV at the east end of the bar, more than 366 slot machines and a private party area able to seat 90 people. The menu includes such ball park staples as Nathan’s hot dogs and Cracker Jack snacks. Contact: Lisa Quirch, public relations manager, 228-386-2462.

Boomtown Casino Moves West

Boomtown Casino in Biloxi has purchased adjacent property and plans to move its casino barge west in early 2005. The move, a $20 million endeavor, will extend Boomtown’s presence across three lots on Bayview Avenue, which is being turned into a major thoroughfare, and increase parking by a few hundred spaces. Additionally, plans for a two-story parking garage are under consideration. Contact: Chett Harrison, director of marketing, 228-436-7508.

 Convention Center Expansion Referendum Vote Passes

On November 2, 2004, Harrison County voters voiced their opinion on an expansion to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center in an approval referendum. This referendum followed the results of a feasibility study, which recommended an addition of 150,000 to 200,000 square feet of convention/tradeshow space as well as significant renovation of existing space at Convention Center to accommodate the Coast's market demand. Project construction costs are estimated at between $64 million and $73 million. Contact: Bill Holmes, executive director, Mississippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center, 228-594-3700.

 Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport Expands

By January 2005, the number of total airline seats to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast will have increased by 20%.  Additionally, increasing terminal size from 92,000 sq. ft. to 165,000 sq. ft., the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport will provide room for three new carriers, ultimately further increasing the number of airline seats to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. The $56 million expansion began earlier this year and will be complete by 2006.  Contact: Ken Spirito, assistant executive director, Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, 228-863-5951.

 First Phase of Development for New Ohr Museum of Art Begins

Work towards the new $29 million Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi progressed with the museum groundbreaking. Designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry, the complex will include a George Ohr art pottery gallery, an African American art gallery, an educational pavilion, and a contemporary art gallery. The first two buildings are expected to open late 2005 with the rest coming on line in 2007. Also included as part of the museum campus is the Pleasant Reed House, which has been open for tours since spring 2003. Circa 1887, the Pleasant Reed House is one of the last remaining homes built and owned by a former slave. Contact: Shelly Becker, director of marketing, Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art,


 Mississippi Sound Historical Museum Opened

The Mississippi Sound Historical Museum opened in Gulfport in March 2004. Exhibits explain the historical significance of the Mississippi Sound as a key transportation artery for the numerous Southeast industries that relied on regional natural resources like timber and charcoal. Another component of the Mississippi Sound Maritime Historical Foundation is a community sail training school that will use a fish-class sloop popular in the early 20th century. The sloop site is currently under construction in Gulfport Harbor next to the Ship Island Ferry. Contact: David Andre, museum director, at 228-863-5998.

 Family Water Park Coming Spring 2005

Gulf Islands Water Park, a $9.7 million family attraction in Gulfport, is scheduled to open spring 2005 with a wave pool, lazy river, tub slides, and a Master Blaster water-propelled roller coaster. Seasonal hours of operation will be 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Contact Jay Thomas South, CFO, at 504-277-3553.

Beauvoir Gets Mississippi Gulf Coast Botanical Gardens

An award-winning landscape architect firm recently presented master plans for the Gulf Coast Botanical Gardens at Beauvoir. Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, features the Davis home, the Davis Presidential Library, Confederate Cemetery and 52-acres of beach front estate waiting to be transformed under the guidance of Marshall, Tyler and Rausch of Pittsburgh, PA, best known for their work with the Missouri Botanical Gardens. At least eight separate garden areas including an ancient moss-draped oaks shade retreat, an aquatic plant lagoon and the 19th century garden and grape arbor designed by Davis’s wife Varina, as well as a visitors center and tea room, are included in the design. The $35 million project will be completed at various stages over the next eight years. Contact: Jennifer Myers, tours and programs coordinator, Beauvoir, 228-388-9074.

Plans for I-10 Space Park Attraction Move Forward

Entertainment, education and NASA science are the concepts behind the $35 million space attraction scheduled to open on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast in early 2007, with formal groundbreaking in 2005. Edwin Schlossberg has been named designer of Infinity at NASA Stennis Space Center. Several hands-on exhibitions and exciting simulators including one that recreates the test firing of a space shuttle engine complete with mock blast are planned. The attraction will blend components of StennisSphere, the current visitor attraction at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center. Once combined and located at the new site near the welcome center off Interstate 10, the new attraction will feature a restaurant, large screen theater, lunar module, Mississippi heritage display, and items from past space voyages. Contact: Cindy Duvall,  public relations, The Godwin Group, 228-388-8511.

Architects Draw Plans For Point Cadet Revitalization

After a land-use study for Point Cadet, the eastern gateway to Biloxi, architects have drawn plans for a $60 million expansion to J.L. Scott Marine Education Center featuring a tropical rain forest, three-story waterfall and exhibits about the deep sea. Space will also be available for a restaurant and small gift shop. An additional $17 million is proposed for a two-deck parking facility, a grassy amphitheater with views of Deer Island, boardwalks and landscaping. By the end of this year, a fund raising plan will be in place through the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, which operates the marine center.  Contact:  Linda Skupien, public information officer, 228-872-4273.


For More Information Contact
Jolie Spiers
Media Relations Manager
Harrison County Tourism Commission
228 896-6699 ext. 230

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