by Hunter R. Slaton | November 01, 2009

Local Update:
New service to Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport includes flights from Jacksonville and Tampa, Fla., aboard Continental Airlines; from Atlanta via AirTran Airways; one daily flight from Charlotte, N.C., on US Airways; and a new flight from Dallas via American Airlines.

The Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum, one of many local institutions devastated by Hurricane Katrina, will break ground on its new building by the end of this year, with a planned phase-one opening in December 2011. The new campus, which also will contain two 5,000-square-foot museums devoted to Mardi Gras and Katrina, will be next to the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art and across from the Schooner Pier Complex.

The new 195-room Four Points
by Sheraton Biloxi Beach Boulevard is scheduled to open in late January 2010. It will have one 600-square-foot meeting room and one 400-square-foot boardroom.

Construction is at a standstill
for the Margaritaville Casino & Resort being developed by Harrah’s Entertainment. The venue broke ground back in August 2007 and originally was scheduled to celebrate its grand opening in spring 2010. As of press time, no announcements had been made as to when work on the property, to cost approximately $700 million, would resume.

A 125-room Courtyard by Marriott currently is under construction in D’Iberville, north of Biloxi. No opening date has been set for the $16 million property.

Meeting Hotels:
The Mississippi Gulf Coast offers about 12,400 hotel rooms. Major properties include the 1,740-room Beau Rivage Resort & Casino; 1,088-room IP Casino Resort Spa; 700-room Isle of Capri Casino Resort; 562-room Island View Casino Resort; 500-room Grand Biloxi Casino, Hotel & Spa; 318-room Hard Rock Hotel & Casino; 291-room Hollywood Casino Bay St. Louis; 249-room Treasure Bay Casino, and 234-room Palace Casino Resort.

Convention Center: Mis­sissippi Coast Coliseum & Convention Center; exhibit space, approximately 400,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 34. (228) 594-3700;

Airport Transit:
Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, about three miles north of the Gulfport casinos, 10 miles west of the Biloxi casinos. Transfer cost by taxi to Gulfport, around $20; to Biloxi, $33 flat fee ($30 return); by shuttle to Biloxi, $12 one way, $22 roundtrip

Room tax, 5%; sales tax, 7%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12%

Large Group Venue:
Just two blocks north of the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, downtown Biloxi’s venerable Saenger Theater celebrated its 70th anniversary  this year. The theater is home to the Gulf Coast Symphony and hosts a wide range of concerts, dance performances, plays and musicals. For groups, the theater features a handsome lobby that can serve as prefunction space (large enough to accommodate up to 60 people), a green room (100 to 150) and a 944-seat auditorium, plus 10 seats for guests with disabilities. (228) 435-6281;

Small Group Venue:
Di­rectly across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Mary Mahoney’s Old French Restaurant is a decidedly less modern affair. It is housed within a structure that predates the Revolutionary War and probably was built around 1737. Today, Mahoney’s is an upscale Old South establishment serving rich Gulf Coast staples such as stuffed red snapper and lobster Georgo, diced lobster tail and shrimp in a cream sauce. The eatery offers seven private dining rooms for groups of anywhere from 12 to 96 people. (228) 374-0163;

Museums & Galleries:
Re­construction has begun on the $36 million, Frank Gehry-designed home for the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, which was less than a year from opening when Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. Two galleries and a welcome center — marked by the curvy steel for which Gehry is famous — are set to open in early 2011 and promise to prove a fitting home for the life and ceramic work of Mississippi native George Ohr, the “Mad Potter of Biloxi.” For now, the museum’s temporary home can be found within Biloxi’s Glenn L. Swetman House. (228) 374-5547;

The new Infinity at NASA Stennis Space Center, within NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss., broke ground in November 2008. When the facility opens in fall 2010, components will include the Earth Gallery, devoted to “investigations of Earth as a holistic, life-supporting system”; the Space Gallery, with exhibits on our solar system and the Milky Way; a 3-D theater, and more.

Top public links on the Mississippi Gulf Coast include Bridges (800-562-4425), Diamondhead (800-346-8741), Grand Bear (800-946-7777), Great Southern (228-896-3536), Gulf Hills (228-872-9663), Mississippi National (228-497-2372), The Oaks (228-452-0909), The Preserve (877-674-6539) and Windance (228-832-5374).

Available exclusively to its guests, Beau Rivage Resort & Casino offers the Tom Fazio-designed, 18-hole, par-72 Fallen Oak (877-805-4657).

CVB Services:
Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau, (228) 896-6699 or (888) 467-4583;