Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium’s president and says an aquarium relocation to the mainland, even if it’s not a waterfront spot, is still a top priority.
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium CEO and President Michael Crosby is still determined to find a space for a new aquarium in Sarasota, even if it’s not on the water.
Crosby told the Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key at its May 28 breakfast meeting that moving the aquarium to the mainland is still a top priority.
“Moving the aquarium off a barrier island is important for a number of reasons, most importantly for accessibility to visitors,” Crosby said. “We need to establish a 21st century facility that has access to a much broader segment of the state.”
In September 2014, Crosby began a campaign to secure bayfront space for a new aquarium on land near the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Crosby wanted an endorsement for its plan from the Sarasota City Commission to begin securing funding and design work for a new site.
But the city commission dashed Mote’s plans in a 3-2 vote in October 2014, when it declined Mote’s vision for growth in that location.
Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key Secretary John Wild asked Crosby if he expects to ask the commission for another vote of confidence for a new aquarium, noting the vote could go the other way now that a new commission is in place after a recent election.
“Mote stays out of politics,” Crosby said. “But I can tell you that we continue to look at sites, and I discuss potential sites for Mote in Sarasota with property owners on a regular basis.”
Asked if a new aquarium site has to be located on the bayfront, Crosby said it does not.
“It doesn’t have to be waterfront for an aquarium attraction,” Crosby said.
The City Island site, Crosby said, would remain as Mote’s spot for research.
“It’s the best site I’ve ever seen for a research center,” Crosby said.
Crosby also outlined a plan for a comprehensive campaign for the future of Mote called Oceans of Opportunity that is working to raise $50 million.
The money will be used to boost its number of doctorate scientists from 35 to 45 and expand Mote’s local and global impact.
The only capital project for the campaign is to build a new research facility in the Florida Keys. The new aquarium is not a part of that campaign.
YOU OTTER KNOW
The Sarasota County Tourist Development Council approved a $95,000 grant for Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium May 21 that was labeled “Otters and Watershed Conservation.”
Mote spokeswoman Kaitlyn Fusco told the Longboat Observer Mote has been “interested in otters as a possible exhibit animal for years.”
“Recently we’ve been looking at the possibility more closely and looking to obtain funding sources that would allow us to host otters for a future limited-time exhibit,” Fusco said. “However, there is no otter exhibit design developed at this point.”
Asked about the possibility of a future otter exhibit May 25, Mote CEO and President Michael Crosby said, “All I can say is there’s some exciting new exhibits coming to Mote that our members and visitors are going to love.”
Mote’s “Oh Baby! Life Cycles of the Seas” limited-time exhibit featuring the youngest marine life ends Sept. 27, and Mote has not announced plans for its next rotating exhibit.
Mote’s dolphin lagoon facility has also been empty since February, when Mote announced Moonshine, a dolphin that lived at the facility since 2003, died after a brief illness. Mote has no plans to bring another dolphin to the facility because it’s used only for rehabilitation efforts.