A bold vision is one shovel closer to reality today, as Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium officially broke ground for the new Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA) at Nathan Benderson Park. Federal, state, and local government officials, Mote Trustees and supporters, and other community partners came together to celebrate the occasion.
Mote SEA will be an iconic facility at a nexus location for Sarasota and Manatee counties, and the entire southwest Florida region. Reaching nearly 700,000 visitors per year, Mote SEA will surely inspire the next generation of marine scientists, while serving as a major tourism and economic driver for the greater Sarasota-Manatee region. Three state-of-the-art STEM teaching labs will bring marine science to life for thousands of school children, offered at no-cost to Sarasota and Manatee county school districts.
“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—Science Education Aquarium,” said Dr. Sam Seider, Mote Board of Trustees Chairman. While recognizing fellow Mote Trustees and the group of visionary philanthropists known as the Mote SEA Explorers, Seider continued, “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.”
Said Mote’s President & CEO, Dr. Michael P. Crosby, “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.”
Crosby also mentioned the newest group to show their support for Mote SEA: corporate sponsors. “With the momentum of private philanthropy, and then the bi-county 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: Our first corporate sponsors with formal agreement are: Benderson Development, Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, Ajax Paving, Caldwell Trust Company, CBIZ Insurance Services, Tervis, and Florida Power & Light. 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.”
Elected officials also had the chance to share their support for Mote and the vision of Mote SEA:
U.S. Representative Greg Steube: “When we’ve had problems in estuaries, when snook died in Charlotte Harbor estuary, Mote was there to help. When we had the BP oil spill, Mote was there. When we need research for red tide, Mote’s there. When we need research for all the different things that we’re trying to do to make water quality in the State of Florida along the coastline the best water quality in the nation, Mote is there. I’m happy to be a partner; I’m happy to support this project. If there’s ever anything we can do at the federal level to support it, I’m happy to do that. I’m excited about the opportunity for this to be here right on the line of Sarasota and Manatee counties and I’m happy that it’s going to be right here in the State of Florida.”
Florida Senator Joe Gruters: “This is going to be an absolutely awesome project for our communities. Thank you to everybody for all the work you’ve put into this because I think this is going to be iconic. It is going to be the gateway. The fact that it’s right on the Sarasota-Manatee border, I remember growing up here, I’ve lived here my entire life. What used to be an old dirt road has grown into Nathan Benderson Park, a community asset that we all love. Mote SEA is going to continue on that tradition, and everything we do here in support of our community is now looked at by everybody else around the world and especially around the state
Florida Representative James Buchanan: “It’s an absolute pleasure to be with you on this very special day as we see Mote SEA become a reality. There’s been so many conversations, partnerships, drawings on paper—all conceptual. And now this becomes a reality for all Floridians and the folks that come to visit the great State of Florida. The vision of Mote SEA is to take science to all of you—to the public, to our elected officials, our policymakers, our educators and the next generation in order to protect Florida’s natural resources, and in keeping Florida’s coastline safe and resilient to sea level rise.”
Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh: “I stand before you today and I remember being out here one day many years ago for the first event for rowing. I was not an elected official at the time but I knew what this Nathan Benderson Park meant for Manatee and Sarasota. I’ve got to tell you—it has been a long haul, a long time coming for today, but something like Mote SEA can’t be done in a day, but that’s how special and wonderful it is. We cannot do without Mote Marine Lab, and this is a great day for Manatee and Sarasota. I want to thank the Manatee County commissioners for supporting this project, and I am excited for the schoolchildren in Manatee and Sarasota, because we’re going to have Mote SEA.
Sarasota County Commissioner Mike Moran: “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. 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. As we speak, Mote SEA will be an economic booster with immediate impact of benefits of $280 million in construction based economic impact. Upon opening it’s estimated that $28 million economic impact will be realized every year. 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.”