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Tampa Bay Watch's New Discovery Center On Track To Open At St. Pete Pier

Mar 26, 2019

The highly anticipated St. Pete Pier is scheduled to open this fall, and among the many attractions planned is Tampa Bay Watch’s 3,000-square-foot Discovery Center.

Downtown St. Petersburg will be the new home for the interactive exhibition and education center, where visitors will come face-to-face with some of the area’s native aquatic life.

This will be the organization’s second location - the main one is located off of the Pinellas Bayway.  

According to Pamela Arbisi, the organization’s development director, that makes it a bit difficult to find unless visitors are headed to Ft. De Soto Beach. She hopes the new location is an opportunity to bring light to the work that the organization does within the community.

“As a nonprofit, being the area’s best kept secret isn’t a good thing,” she said. “That why we jumped at the opportunity to partner with the City of St. Petersburg to open up a new center at the pier.”

Through restoration and education, Tampa Bay Watch focuses on caring for the area’s estuaries, an important part of the local lifestyle and economy.

In order to partner with the city on a 10-year lease agreement, the organization had to raise $825,000 by Jan. 2019.

“We reached that and we’re still in a very active campaign process to continue to raise funds,” Arbisi said. “Overall we’re looking to raise $2.5 million and we’ve raised about $1.6 million so far.”

The construction zone outside the St. Pete Pier that includes signs of the businesses included in the project.
Credit NIcole Slaughter Graham / WUSF Public Media

Those funds will support the new discovery center, which Arbisi said is slated to be open seven days a week. Though no set fee has been determined, she said the organization is considering a $5 charge for non-Tampa Bay Watch members.

The facility will have an exhibition center that will feature educational stations that, Arbisi hopes, will appeal to both residents and visitors alike.

“(We’ll have) oyster exhibits, we will have a media wall, we will have touch tanks that will be wonderful for children,” Arbisi said. “In the back half of the building, we will have a dedicated classroom. And in that classroom, we will continue to educate our youth through field trips we do year-round as well as our summer camp programs.”

The Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center is scheduled to open at the same time as the St. Pete Pier.