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Mote SEA Builds $132M Facility in Southwest Florida

Thu June 20, 2024 - Southeast Edition #13
Cindy Riley – CEG Correspondent


The $132 million, 110,000-sq.-ft. Mote facility is expected to dramatically increase attendance from the current Mote Aquarium on City Island.
Mote Marine Laboratory photo
The $132 million, 110,000-sq.-ft. Mote facility is expected to dramatically increase attendance from the current Mote Aquarium on City Island.
The $132 million, 110,000-sq.-ft. Mote facility is expected to dramatically increase attendance from the current Mote Aquarium on City Island.   (Mote Marine Laboratory photo) Whiting-Turner Construction Company and Willis A. Smith Construction were selected to partner on the assignment, with TVS of Atlanta serving as the architectural firm.   (Mote Marine Laboratory photo) In late 2020, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium broke ground on the three-story project, which is located on 12 acres near I-75.   (Mote Marine Laboratory photo) Described as a world-class ocean science education center, Mote SEA will offer a “window of discovery” into globally significant marine science research.   (Mote Marine Laboratory photo) Mote SEA acrylic window installation for Gulf of Mexico exhibit.   (Mote Marine Laboratory photo) Benderson Mote SEA Topping Off Event in November 2023.   (Mote Marine Laboratory photo) When it opens its doors early next year, the Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA) in southwest Florida will include exhibits totaling more than one million gal. of water, featuring sharks, coral reef species, manatees, sea turtles and other wildlife.   (Mote Marine Laboratory photo)

When it opens its doors early next year, the Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA) in southwest Florida will include exhibits totaling more than one million gal. of water, featuring sharks, coral reef species, manatees, sea turtles and other wildlife. The $132 million, 110,000 sq.-ft. facility is expected to dramatically increase attendance from the current Mote Aquarium on City Island.

Mote Marine Laboratory photo

"The ongoing construction of this project is like watching the creativity and ingenuity of our community being brought to life," said Sarasota County Commission Chairman Mike Moran. "With each placement of beams and pouring of concrete, we are cementing our community's future as the premier destination for tourism and business, plus a home for scientific achievements to benefit our ecosystem and water quality. This project also will provide a one-of-a-kind educational resource."

Described as a world-class ocean science education center, Mote SEA will offer a "window of discovery" into globally significant marine science research. It will include STEM teaching labs where thousands of children in the Sarasota and Manatee County school districts can learn about marine science at no cost.

In late 2020, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium broke ground on the three-story project, which is located on 12 acres near I-75. Mote SEA will serve as a major attraction for the greater Sarasota-Manatee region, with construction of the facility expected to have a $280 million economic impact.

At the official ceremony to kick off the project, Sam Seider, Mote board of trustees' chairman, said, "We're here at Nathan Benderson Park, and in no time at all it will be the site of our iconic landmark building, Mote SEA. Something like this aquarium doesn't happen in a vacuum. A day like today is not possible without our Mote family — our very large and very generous Mote family. I hope you have a proper feeling of pride in what you've helped us become."

Michael Crosby, Mote president and CEO, told reporters, "Over the past 65 years, 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."

Mote Marine Laboratory photo

Because aquarium construction is highly specialized, potential contractors had to possess a certain skill set. Whiting-Turner Construction Company and Willis A. Smith Construction were selected to partner on the assignment, with TVS of Atlanta serving as the architectural firm.

In December 2023, a topping off celebration was held to mark placement of the final structural beam as the crowd looked on. The step was considered a major milestone for the building team, which has been responsible for completing a wide range of tasks, including installing the large-scale acrylic panels for the balance of the main habitats throughout Mote SEA, and tackling a complex network of plumbing and life support systems needed to operate the facility.

The debut of the new structure, which will allow Mote's primary campus to become an enhanced International Marine Science, Technology and Innovation Park, can't come soon enough for those who've played a crucial role in bringing the aquarium to life.

"We have been so fortunate to connect with so many supporters who truly believe in the mission and vision of Mote SEA and know the direct impact their giving will have on providing students the opportunities to explore marine science," said Crosby to potential benefactors. "We cannot achieve these critical goals alone. Opportunities still exist for donors and corporate sponsors to be part of this important new era for Mote, and for the next generation of marine researchers. The oceans serve us all. It is time to give back and fuel the science and public education required to achieve lasting impact for our shared marine resources." CEG




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