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Movement In Mote Aquarium Proposal

Mote Marine Laboratory
Artist's rendering of proposed Mote Science Education Aquarium.

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium’s planned facility is one step along in the approval process. The Sarasota County Commission has signed off on some of the terms to put a new aquarium in Nathan Benderson Park.

At the same time, Mote officials say they’ve already received sizable pledges from local donors.

Commissioners unanimously approved a non-binding term sheet at their Oct. 24 meeting.

Under the terms, Mote will provide Sarasota County with a site plan, survey the land and conduct environmental testing, all at the non-profit’s expense. The steps to Mote receiving a long-term lease of the land by deed is also outlined in the term sheet.

Construction of the Mote Science Education Aquarium (SEA) can begin once all terms have been met by Mote and approved by the county.

One other condition that has to be met is a bit more daunting -- Mote has to raise the necessary funds. As of Nov. 1, they have received $28 million from private donors who they refer to as “SEA Explorers.”

While that’s still $102 million short of their $130 million goal, Mote expects to hit that mark within 12 months.

The most updated proposal from Mote includes nearly 12 acres of land in Nathan Benderson Park. At the Oct. 2 meeting with the Sarasota County Commission, Mote proposed using 27 acres.

“The reason is the first proposal included some of the pond and some of the lake in the actual acreage and so after we went back and talked to our designers and architects, there wasn’t really any reason for us to own or lease those water bodies,” said Dan Bebak, Vice President for Aquarium Education and Outreach at Mote Marine Laboratory.

The next meeting with the Sarasota County Commission is expected to take place by January 30, 2019. Bebak expects the Mote Science Education Aquarium to break ground by the end of 2019.

Jeslyn Santiago is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for fall 2018.
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