Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium CEO Michael Crosby announced a $100-million aqaurium will be built at Nathan Benderson Park.

Rendering of Mote Science Education Aquarium


"We hope you all leaders in this community, are supportive, friends and members, and will help us together to create this vision of oceans for all," Crosby said. The hard cost for the Mote Science Education Aquarium (SEA) will be about $100 million, Crosby says, with another $20 to $30 million in "soft costs" in addition.

Mote plans to lease five to seven acres at Nathan Benderson Park and will seek assistance from private and public partners to construct the facility. The site selection, Crosby says, will put the new aquarium at the nexis point between Sarasota and Manatee counties, and will attract drivers on Interstate-75 to check out the region. Officials from Mote will speak with state and county officials, as well as the school districts here, about partnerships. The aquarium will also seek corporate sponsorships. But Crosby stressed that once contruction is done, no public assistance will be needed for operating expenses.

Crosby says more than 20 percent of needed funds for the project have already been raised.

A groundbreaking for the project is anticipated in 2019, Crosby says, and he hopes for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in late 2021. The final building will have 110,000 square feet of space and 1 million gallons of water, much larger than the existing aquarium on City Island and located in a locale with much greater visibility and accessability.

Crosby says the aquarium is expected to draw more than 700,000 visitors through its doors in its first year of operation, and to have more than 600,000 visitors a year after that. Economic studies anticipate a $28-million annual economic impact.

Shelby Isaacson, Mote spokeswoman, confirms that aquarium facilities on City Island will still be used by Mote, but not as a public attraction after everything moves in to the new facility at NBP. Mote instead will expand its research facilities on City Island. The long-term plans for Mote include bringing in 10 more PhD-level scientists by 2020. Right now, the most recent scientists to come to Mote have located at the Key West facilities becasue of lack of space in Sarasota.