GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Lifting a 25-foot long, 12-foot diameter tube is obviously no easy task.
Construction workers started early Wednesday morning to carefully lift it off the truck. A few hours later, two cranes hoisted it into an upright position with extreme care.
It’s a very slow and meticulous process.
That doesn’t stop Mississippi Aquarium President and CEO David Kimmel’s anticipation for opening day from quickly building.
“It’s just all coming together, and I think that’s just the amazing piece of it, and I’m just so proud of the work that everybody has done in getting this so far," he said. "We still have a lot of work to do, but I’m really proud of my team. My team has just done a great job.”
The cylindrical acrylic window installed Wednesday will be part of the swirl tank. Aquarium visitors will be surrounded by fish as they go up or down spiraling steps.
It’s the first of the final three acrylic panels left to be installed, an exciting step toward completion.
“You know, it’s really cool. I walked all day yesterday. I walked the site, it’s just fun. Now you’re starting to see where touch pools are, you’re starting to envision the animals swimming in there," Kimmel said.
Kimmel said as construction nears the finish line, the behind-the-scenes work will be moving into high gear. Staff will spend the next few months collecting the animals and getting things ready for the aquarium to welcome its first guests near the end of this year or early next year.
“You’re starting to now figure out and rethink how you want to do your operations,” Kimmel said. “The big construction is getting there. Now it’s the fine tuning, and that’s the detail work, so we got a lot of detail work to get done.”
Crews were also scheduled to install the panels for the 360-degree tunnel on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the final acrylic panel will be transported from the Port of Gulfport and installed, a 30-foot by 25-foot window that weighs about 40 tons.
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