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$3.22 million approved for a visitor center at new Keesler Air Force Base gate

By PATRICK MAGEE | The Sun Herald | Published: February 10, 2021

BILOXI, Miss. (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. Air Force has approved $3.22 million to fund the construction of a visitor center at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, three of Mississippi's congressional members announced Tuesday.

The building will be 4,036-square-feet and handle all visitor access to Keesler.

It will be located at the new Division Street gate, a $37 million project to move Keesler's main entrance from White Avenue near U.S. 90 — where train crossings interfere with traffic — to near the exit ramp off Interstate 110.

The project also includes off-base improvements.

"A new roundabout at Division and Forrest will take you inside the gate, to new Keesler visitors center and contractors' office," Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich said at this 2020 State of Biloxi address. "You'll see no train tracks and other obstacles."

Col. Heather Blackwell, who is the 81st Training Wing Commander, said the new visitor center will help provide a direct path to downtown Biloxi and quicker access to the surrounding area.

"This project was a joint venture and years in the making," Blackwell said in a statement. "We are thankful for a close partnership with the City of Biloxi and the State of Mississippi for their commitment of funds to the upgrades on-base and their development of Division Street off-base, as well as, our Navy's construction element for executing the construction funds. This will continue to strengthen the deep partnership we have with our local communities."

U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith and U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo announced the visitor center funding approval on Tuesday.

"As a premier military installation and one of the largest employers in the area, Keesler Air Force Base serves the Mississippi Gulf Coast well," Wicker said.

"A new visitor center, in conjunction with a reconfigured Division Street gate, are much-needed improvements to benefit and serve Keesler Air Force Base and the Mississippi Gulf Coast," Hyde-Smith said.

"Keesler Air Force Base has been a beacon of strength in south Mississippi for decades, and I have no doubt this new visitor's facility will help share the base's rich history with all who visit," Palazzo said.

Sun Herald staff writer Mary Perez contributed to this report.

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