Members heard a progress report on the new project planned for Benderson Park.
Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key members got a behind the scenes look at progress on the new Mote Marine aquarium when Mote special adviser Michael Moore came to breakfast on June 3.
The four-story aquarium, to be called Mote SEA (Science Education Aquarium), is in phase one of construction by Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota. That’s just the beginning, which involves moving land around, pumping the culverts and getting electrical capabilities set up. Mote has been looking for a new place for about five years, one that will allow more families to get to the aquarium.
“Our current aquarium, which I would say is nice and quaint, suits us nicely, and it’s great to see all the families that come and participate,” Moore said. “But we found that City Island is a great place to be doing research for scientists, but it’s not a great place to come see the aquarium, because we all know how season is.”
Members of Kiwanis, a club that focuses on fundraising and helping kids, were fascinated by Moore’s presentation. As a special adviser, he is in charge of wrangling promises for funds, including naming rights to the building. It will be a 10-year contract for whomever gets the rights and bring in $20 million to the $130 million campaign. For now, with private funds and promises of $20 million and $5 million from Sarasota and Manatee Counties, respectively, the campaign is over $75 million. Moore said Mote will soon make an updated announcement on its fundraising.
“By the end of this year, we'll have phase one done. And in the meantime, we're raising the money for the actual building to go up … so over the next two years, we'll collect the money and we'll build the building, because it's about a two-year build,” Moore said.
Central to MoteSEA will be STEM education, which Moore said has always been a focus of Mote. The new building will feature teaching labs that Mote hopes to be able to offer to local schools to include in their curricula. Not everyone will become a marine scientist, but Moore said Mote just wants to help open some doors — a message about childhood education that resonated with Kiwanians.
“We have, I think 14 or 15 Title I schools between the two Sarasota and Manatee counties, but these are not just day trips, this is STEM curriculum that we're working with ... curriculum advisers to put together course content where the kids can come and be there,” Moore said. “It's delivering a curriculum that's going to help the schools because they don't have the resources. Having more exposure to STEM is important, as we all know, for kids.”
Along with a larger aquarium will come more exhibits. Moore said Mote plans to add a penguin exhibit and noted the popularity of a traveling penguin exhibit that visited about a decade ago. It’ll be a flock of endangered Humboldt penguins from Chile.
“You have to have a whole flock that comes in and they’re smelly and very active,” Moore said. “We are imagining that once we have penguins, we'll probably have a researcher that wants to come here and join us and be part of our effort, so that's an exciting piece.”