Mote Marine Laboratory announced plans Thursday to build a new aquarium alongside Interstate 75 in Sarasota. It's been in the works for five years. It's planned for Nathan Benderson Park, at Interstate 75 and University Parkway. The four-story building would be double the size of the existing aquarium.
The new $130 million building is planned for 2019, after a fundraising effort gets underway.Mote CEO and President Michael Crosby says it's the first step toward creating a "Silicon Valley for marine science and technology."
"If we can partner and all come together, we can achieve this vision, and it's going to be a game-changer for our region and a whole new era, I think, for Southwest Florida," Crosby said.
Part of their motivation is freeing up space in the existing campus on City Island, on Sarasota Bay.
"I've got to believe that that broader vision for enhancing the City Island campus into that International Marine Science and Innovation Park," Crosby said, "which will serve as the catalyst for bringing together all of the different science and technology and academic organizations here in Southwest Florida to create a true Silicon Valley for marine science and technology."
And he says the location of Nathan Benderson Park - which recently hosted the World Rowing Championships - can help their fundraising efforts.
"The visibility from I-75, with 43 million vehicles a year that travel past there, all of those sporting events, all of the shopping, the growth of Lakewood Ranch, all of that we think are going to excite corporations to support the mission of Mote," said Crosby.
Here's more from Mote's press release:
Powering this major advance is Mote’s new, $130-million capital construction fundraising effort, Oceans for All: Improving Access to Marine Science & Technology. Contingent on progress toward this goal, Mote leaders aim to begin construction in 2019. The fundraising effort started strong on Feb. 8 with the announcement that commitments for over 20 percent of facility’s total cost have already been made.
“At Mote Science Education Aquarium, science is the attraction, as it is the heart of our mission,” Crosby said. “This spectacular new facility and campus will embody our vision of Oceans for All, doubling the number of visitors whose lives are enriched by marine science each year, and providing no-cost opportunities for all schools to utilize specialized teaching labs to ensure that every child has the opportunity for hands-on marine science and technology experiences. The oceans are connected to everyone, every place in the world, and our goal is to ignite within each visitor a greater degree of curiosity to learn more about the oceans and their critical value in providing the oxygen we breathe, food, medicine, economic impact and overall quality of our lives.”