The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss., Tradewinds Column
By Charles Busby, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 24, 1998 -- Eddie McGuire sits in a chair beneath a tented pavilion on Caillavet Street in Biloxi. To the south, beyond a graceful oak trimmed with Spanish moss and skirted by a neatly planted flower garden, looms the Beau Rivage.
Teeming with hard hats -- 1,700 of them as Mirage Resorts steps up the pace of construction -- the towering structure gives McGuire a glimpse of the future, and at the same time, a reminder of the past.
As resident manager of the Broadwater Beach in the '60s, McGuire was a central figure in Coast tourism during its glory days. A time when illegal gambling and bootleg liquor thrived at night, and the beach, restaurants and historic sites shined as family attractions during the day.
"The Broadwater was the `hotel of the South," McGuire says. "I lived and breathed it seven days a week, and I honestly thought there would never be a finer hotel on the Gulf Coast. Today, the Broadwater couldn't even be compared to the Beau Rivage."
Next to the pavilion in the Beau Rivage Preview Center, a renovated building that once housed Rosetti's Restaurant, is a 400-square-foot room built exactly like the 1,714 standard rooms (there also are 66 suites) guests will see when the hotel opens in February.
The large bath, built with marble and equipped with a wide tub, separate shower and a lighted make-up mirror, among other features, is a good illustration of the opulence of the rooms' design.
Outside, beneath the pavilion, McGuire listens as Mirage executive Barry Shier describes how the company will place 21 oak trees along the drive leading to the resort. And how it will spend $2 million on an aquarium designed to make restaurant guests feel like they're at the bottom of the sea. And how it will spend more than $10,000 per room on artwork to hang on the walls.
"This is so far beyond my expectations of any hotel we ever imagined anyone building," McGuire says. "It will be the new `hotel of the South.' It will be some time before anybody matches it."
Like it or not, the legalization of dockside casino gambling in 1992 is what made it possible to attract the investment required to build the Beau Rivage, Grand Casinos' Island View and Bayview, the Isle of Capri's Crowne Plaza, Casino Magic Biloxi and the Imperial Palace.
The tradeoff was the re-introduction of a temptation that, for some, destroys families, lives and livelihoods. A temptation once hidden in the back rooms of Coast nightclubs. Now, it's advertised in the newspaper, on billboards and on huge neon signs.
McGuire has no second-thoughts about voting to approve dockside gambling. He believes the jobs and the economic growth were worth the tradeoffs.
But he can't help but wish, in a moment of nostalgia, we could have
reached the level of quality of a Beau Rivage when all we had to advertise
were family attractions.
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(c) 1998, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.