Mote Science Education Aquarium groundbreaking conducted at Benderson Park

Mote CEO recognizes a number of corporate sponsors contributing to estimated $130-million project

Federal, state and county elected officials help Mote President & CEO Michael P. Crosby and Mote board Chair Dr. Sam Seider break ground for the Mote SEA. Photo by Cameron McPhail, courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory

Elected officials representing Sarasota and Manatee counties joined leaders of Mote Marine Laboratory during a Nov. 13 groundbreaking for the Mote Science Education Aquarium (SEA) at Nathan Benderson Park.

“In no time at all, [Benderson Park] will be the site of our iconic landmark building,” Mote SEA, Dr. Sam Seider, chair of Mote’s board of trustees, told those in attendance. “Something like this Aquarium doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” he continued. “A day like today is not possible without our Mote family, our very large and very generous Mote family.”

On March 24, the Sarasota County Commission voted unanimously to approve a two-year lease period with Mote for the 11.45-acre site at Benderson Park. Over those two years, Assistant County Administrator Brad Johnson explained during the Jan. 30, 2019 County Commission meeting, Mote can apply for the rezoning of the park site and other necessary changes to allow the Aquarium project to proceed.

If all goes as Mote envisions, the county eventually will sell the property to Mote for $100, county staff has pointed out. In the meantime, Mote is paying $100 per year to lease the site.

A Mote document explaining facets of the project notes that an average of 60,000 drivers a day move through the University Parkway interchange with Interstate 75. That “will allow an expected average of 43 million drivers to view Mote SEA each year,” the nonprofit’s document says. “Drivers will easily spot the iconic building, whose diaphanous skin will form smooth ellipses rising into the sky like ripples on a calm sea.”

This is a rendering of the ground level of the Mote SEA. Image courtesy Mote Marine

During the Nov. 13 ceremony, Mote President & CEO Michael P. Crosby noted that more than 3 million Florida residents can reach the site after a drive of less than 60 minutes.

Mote expects to complete construction of the Aquarium in early 2023, “contingent on fundraising success,” the project document says.

“Over the past 65 years,” Crosby pointed out during the groundbreaking event, “Mote has operated significant facilities on our campuses, including in locations at some of the most iconic areas in Florida: Charlotte Harbor, Siesta Key, City Island, the Florida Keys, and now right here at Nathan Benderson Park. Our focus has long been to locate our sites where our research and our science education infrastructure can have optimal impact.”

Crosby also mentioned the newest members of a group showing their support for Mote SEA, a news release noted: corporate sponsors.

This is the site plan for the Mote Science Education Aquarium at Benderson Park. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“With the momentum of private philanthropy, and then the [Sarasota County and Manatee County support] and support from the State of Florida, we’re now at the point of adding a critical third source of support: corporate sponsorships. Today I am proud to announce the initial cohort of corporate sponsors that have formally signed on in support of our vision to give a rebirth of our Aquarium here as the Mote Science Education Aquarium at Nathan Benderson Park,” Crosby continued.

Those sponsors who have entered into formal agreements with Mote are Benderson Development, Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, Ajax Paving, Caldwell Trust Company, CBIZ Insurance Services, Tervis, and Florida Power & Light, the release said.

“And in the coming weeks and months we will be announcing many more corporate partners as we finalize agreements for their sponsorships of Mote SEA,” Crosby added.

Elected officials also had the chance to share their support for Mote and the vision of Mote SEA during the Nov. 13 event:

“This is going to be an absolutely awesome project for our communities,” state Sen. Joe Gruters of Sarasota added.

This is the design for the Mote SEA. Image courtesy Mote Marine

“We’re standing on the site of 261 future careers in a wide variety of specialties related to marine science that will attract talented people from all over the world,” Sarasota County Commission Chair Mike Moran pointed out. “In addition, we’re standing on a site that will provide a pathway of future workforce development and higher education for the underserved and the underrepresented students in our region to gain advancement in research-based science.”

Moran also noted, “Mote SEA will be an economic booster with immediate impact of benefits of $280 million in construction-based economic impact.” Upon its opening, he continued, Mote SEA will have an estimated $28-million annual economic impact.

“It will transform our local economy for generations to come as it educates and trains 65,000 school-aged children in Sarasota and Manatee counties in STEM-related marine science fields, again, every year,” Moran added.

Along with Gruters and Moran, other elected officials present were U.S. Rep. Greg Steube of Sarasota, the Republican serving Florida’s 17th Congressional District; state Rep. James Buchanan of Osprey, who serves House District 74; and Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh.

For more information about the Mote SEA project, visit this link.