Even non-gamblers noticed Treasure Bay Casino when it opened in 1996. It was impossible to miss the "pirate ship," a transformed casino barge, looming so close to shore on the Biloxi Strip. |
The ship appeared repeatedly on national TV before Hurricane Katrina as a backdrop to weather reports. The storm moved the casino off its mooring and farther west, gutting the first floors. Now that drivers are allowed back on the beach road, Treasure Bay is one of the most photographed commercial landmarks.
"There's been some discussion of doing something with it, like for a memorial or fishing reef, but it wouldn't be practical," said Treasure Bay CEO and chairman Bernie Burkholder. "If we try to drag it out there will have to be dredging and environmental issues. The only practical thing is to demolish it in place."
The second floor was largely in tact and 400 slot machines and other equipment were salvaged. Much of the first floor was strewn in the Mississippi Sound and is already recovered. One of the "pirates" made of waterproof material washed ashore in front of the home of a restaurant owner and sits on the bar of the renamed Shady restaurant.
Burkholder said he hopes to become the fourth casino to reopen, with a projected date of July. The temporary casino will have 500 slot machines located in the Treasure Bay Hotel, across the street from the ship.
Burkholder said Treasure Bay will build a new casino, likely on the north side of the existing hotel.
The south side of U.S. 90, which had ship parking and a "castle" for restaurants, will also likely be redeveloped. "We're waiting to see the final architectural plans for Biloxi and zoning/building requirements," said Burkholder. "In keeping with suggestions from (Mississippi Renewal Forum) planners to preserve the water view, we're initially thinking of low-rise parking with hotels and condominiums on top and a walkway or tram to the other side."
- KAT BERGERON