SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Mote Marine Lab announced plans for a brand new, state-of-the-art aquarium. It will serve as a mecca for marine science education.
The Mote Science Education Aquarium is a $130 million center that will be constructed at Nathan Benderson Park. It will be unlike any aquarium you’ve ever seen before.
“This is a game changer. It’s Mote entering into a whole new era, but also quite frankly, all of the communities around us because this is going to be a community effort so this is a game changer for this entire region,” said Mote Marine Lab CEO Dr. Michael Crosby.
The aquarium will host more than 110,000 square feet of space and 1 million gallons filled with wildlife from all over the planet.
“You’re going to get some exhibits that exist no place else. We’re going to actually be able to have dive exhibits and have visitors go in,” explained Crosby.
Interactive teaching labs will be accessible to all schools in the region, including no-cost opportunities, so that each child has the chance to discover marine science and technology first-hand. Strategically collaborating with schools and community groups where needs are greatest, Mote will continue to educate children who might not otherwise have access to aquariums and marine science education.
Science will suffuse each moment of visitors’ experience, with augmented reality technology creating an immersive world to explore.
The building’s diaphanous skin will form smooth ellipses rising into the sky like ripples on a calm sea. With wetlands nature trails, water play areas and ocean-themed images swimming across the building’s exterior at night, Mote Science Education Aquarium will catch the eye of the millions of people who drive across nearby I-75.
“The big difference, the thing that will set this facility off from any other, is science, is the attraction,” said Crosby.
And it’s desperately needed. Just take a visit to Mote’s current facility on City Island.
We met Dr. Philip Gravinese, a post-doctoral researcher in a very cramped lab next to a vending machine.
“This facility is a lab that we adapted from a women’s restroom,” explained Gravinese.
Mote Marine lab is running out of research space. Unfortunately, researchers have been turned away because there isn’t enough room.
The new aquarium will not only bring in more tourists, but allow them to take the current laboratory to new heights.
“It helps us to basically be on the frontiers of these new discoveries,” said Gravinese.
The $28 million annual economic impact projected for the new Mote Science Education Aquarium represents a marked increase from the $12 million annual economic impact estimated for the current Mote Aquarium.
Initial attendance will likely be near 700,000 in its opening year, double the current attendance of Mote Aquarium on City Island.
Construction is expected to begin late next year and it should be open by 2021.
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