Biloxi resort plans $140M amusement park and hotel tower

BILOXI, Miss. — The owners of the Margaritaville Resort Biloxi announced Thursday that they will move forward with a $140 million hotel expansion and amusement park after settling a lawsuit with state officials.

The current 371-room hotel was built as Casino Magic Biloxi. It was vacant for years after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, but re-opened two years ago as a family-focused vacation destination without gambling.

Spokesman Cono Caranna of the Barrington Group said Thursday that the owner agreed to lease land from the state, paying more than $650,000 a year.

Caranna said expansion will include a second 300-room hotel tower and an elevated amusement park to go with the current extensive arcade, pool and indoor playground. He estimates the expansion will add 600 jobs.

“Post-Katrina, everything that was on the beach that was family-friendly didn’t come back,” he said, explaining the resort’s popularity. “Adding this to the mix added something that allowed families to come to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”

The owners of the hotel were challenging the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office claim that the state owned some land south of the U.S. 90 beachfront highway. The city of Biloxi, the Biloxi school district and Harrison County were also challenging the claim. All those parties are dismissing their lawsuits, with Biloxi city spokesman Vincent Creel saying the developer agreed to relinquish its ownership claims to at least some disputed land.

The city of Biloxi had threatened to rezone the land to prohibit casinos, a move Hosemann said would make the lease less valuable for the state. The city didn’t do that and Hosemann said the Margaritaville lease includes a rent increase if the developer ever opens a casino on the site.

The same development group opened a second Margaritaville in a former casino hotel in Vicksburg on Saturday.

The Barrington Group also has redeveloped or is working on four other developments in Gulfport and Biloxi.

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