GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) – Sometimes progress can be measured in inches, not just in miles.

“Most people see buildings going up and they see large piece of progress happening,” said Mississippi Aquarium COO Kurt Allen. “For us, we see little piece of progress happening every day.”

Little pieces become big parts.

“Every day is a new adventure in building the new aquarium, and every day there’s something new for us to say, ‘Oh, wow, we’re one step closer,’ ” Allen said.

There’s no doubt that things are kicking into a higher gear. The Mississippi Aquarium is starting to show its true colors and a lot more as construction shifts into higher gear for its grand opening next year.

“All of the exteriors of the buildings are now getting cladded in,” Allen said. “Our ticketing and retail building, you’re starting to see the exterior being finished up. Building 40, which is the large aquarium building, has an exterior skin on it now. So that is now getting closed up.”

Allen added that the water system tests for the tank were successful, although there still is no date for when the tanks will be filled to begin preparation for the animals.

Patio 44 is one example of an early economic ripple effect created by the aquarium.

“Part of this attraction for this piece of real estate when we built this restaurant was that we knew the aquarium was coming,” said general manager Josh Rogers. “And we aren’t afraid to wait out the time, but at the same time, we’re extremely excited for when it does happen.”

Rogers added that patience will pay off for him and all of downtown Gulfport.

“I think it’s a great investment for downtown Gulfport,” he said. “I think that the area is going to be able to see long-term investment off of it with the amount of people that are going to come visit.”

While construction toward the grand opening is gearing up, so are plans for a grand fundraising.

The second annual Hancock Whitney Splash Bash will be from 7 to 11 p.m. Sept. 27 at Barksdale Pavilion in Gulfport.

Officials announced the 2019 theme as “The Year of the Croc.”

In addition to food and entertainment, those who attend will get some breaking news when officials announce the grand opening date of the aquarium.

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