Mote SEA Milestones
Guiding Growth in Marine Science and Education
Guided by its 2020 Vision & Strategic Plan, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium commissions feasibility studies to guide the institution’s growth in science and education and increase its benefit to communities and the economy. Feasibility studies suggest significant benefits of a rebirth of Mote Aquarium at a new site in Sarasota County, which will free space for much-needed growth of Mote’s research enterprise at its primary campus on City Island, Sarasota.
Mote leaders examine multiple potential Aquarium sites and form a New Aquarium Oversight Committee with Board of Trustees members to help Mote’s President & CEO with the planning process.
Mote leaders redouble efforts to meet with southwest Florida community leaders, commission financial feasibility analyses by Schultz & Williams and hold numerous planning sessions with CambridgeSeven, the architect selected to conceptualize the new facility.
Feb 8, 2018
Mote Science Education Aquarium Announcement
Feb. 8, 2018: Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby announces that the spectacular new Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA) is being planned for Nathan Benderson Park, a nexus site for the Sarasota-Manatee region and southwest Florida. Mote SEA will share science and ocean literacy with a much wider audience while freeing space for Mote’s primary research campus on City Island, Sarasota, to evolve into an International Marine Science, Technology & Innovation Park.
Mote unveils the $130-million fundraising campaign to create Mote SEA through philanthropic, corporate and public support: Oceans for All: Improving Access to Marine Science & Technology.
Continuing Meetings to Secure Land
Mote continues productive meetings with Sarasota County with the goal of securing county-owned land in Nathan Benderson Park for Mote SEA.
Mote offers a new opportunity for donors to become SEA Explorers, members of an exclusive group of no more than 100 visionary philanthropic leaders who together will contribute the next $25,000,000 in pace-setting contributions to Oceans for All, each pledging $250,000 for Mote SEA design and site development.
Oct 24, 2018
County Commission Unanimously Approves Mote SEA
The Sarasota County Commission unanimously approves a significant step forward in establishing a new Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA): a term sheet developed by Mote and Sarasota County staff, which provides a path to formalize a full lease and conveyance agreement.
Oct 27, 2018
First SEA Explorers Announcement
During Mote’s annual Oceanic Evening event, Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby announces the first group of SEA Explorers, visionary supporters who have donated or pledged $250,000 or more toward creation of Mote SEA: Hobart and Janis Swan; Bob and Anne Essner; Elizabeth Moore; Ellen Hanson and Richard Perlman; and The Benderson Family.
Jan 30, 2019
Sarasota County Commission Approval
The Sarasota County Commission unanimously approves an agreement for Mote’s use of county-owned land in Nathan Benderson Park for the site of the planned Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA). The “omnibus” agreement includes a two-year lease, during which Mote will pursue normal, due-diligence steps and seek zoning approval for ultimate sale of the land. If this does not happen within the short-term lease, the agreement calls for a long-term lease of 90 years.
$30 Million Raised
Mote’s campaign to create Mote SEA, Oceans for All, reaches $30 million raised or pledged toward its $130-million goal.
May 16, 2019
Construction Management Team Announcement
After an intensive selection process, Mote announces the construction management team for Mote Science Education Aquarium: local construction management company Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc., and international firm The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.
Mote staff, along with locally based land-use consultants, civil engineers and geotechnical engineers, spend the summer working through all the normal due diligence work associated with a project of this size and complexity. These include soil testing at the site, survey work, parking and traffic flow analysis and land use rights and easements.
Schematic Design Development and Review Phase
As schematic design phase continues to develop, Mote Staff and Trustee Oversight Committee, along with various Mote building contractors begin interactive feedback review of designs.
Vital Support from Sarasota & Manatee County Commissioners
On Jan. 15, 2020, Sarasota County Commissioners vote unanimously to commit $20 million of county tourist development funds to Mote SEA. At the same time, Mote remains on track with “due-diligence” efforts as outlined by the county and Mote’s Oceans for All campaign to support Mote SEA, working toward the goal of breaking ground by the end of 2020.
On Feb. 25, 2020, the Manatee County Commissioners unanimously vote to commit $5 million of county tourist development funds to support Mote operations, programs and outreach activities that will promote tourism at Mote SEA and existing Mote Aquarium.
After carefully reviewing the schematic designs and conceptual renderings of Mote SEA, Mote focuses on further improvements to support the facility’s constructability and functionality by adding tvsdesign architecture firm to the team.
• Improvements to the building’s distribution of space and weight for constructability and for optimizing visitor flow through the interior.
• Refinements to the architecture of the building’s “skin,” choosing a modular approach that will expedite construction, improve cost effectiveness and realize the iconic look envisioned for Mote SEA—a win-win-win outcome. Updated plans disconnect the building’s skin from its core structure, providing the option to grow the facility in the long term (within the same footprint) and meet expanding community needs for marine science education.
• Further detailing plans for pedestrian and public transportation access to Mote SEA.
Jul 16, 2020
More than $75 Million Raised & Groundbreaking Planned
Mote’s President & CEO, Dr. Michael P. Crosby, announces that more than $75 million has been raised for Mote SEA to date, meaning that the $130-million Oceans for All campaign has moved well beyond its halfway mark. The exciting campaign momentum continues to grow with support from visionary philanthropic leaders as well as public and corporate partners that embrace the goals of Mote SEA.
Mote also reveals the upgraded renderings of Mote SEA and announces plans to “break ground” for site preparation by the end of 2020. Initial work will involve improvements to the grounds, a necessary step before vertical construction. A schedule for vertical construction is expected to be determined through close coordination among Mote, its contracting partners and Sarasota County.
Nov 13, 2020
Mote SEA Groundbreaking!
Our bold vision moved one shovel closer to reality 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.
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby and Mote’s Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Sam Seider thanked everyone who made this tremendous milestone possible.
Dr. Crosby also thanked the newest group to show their support for Mote SEA—corporate sponsors. The first cohort of these sponsors for Mote SEA includes: Benderson Development, Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, Ajax Paving, Caldwell Trust Company, CBIZ Insurance Services, Tervis, and Florida Power & Light.
Phase 1 Progress
In 2021, the Mote SEA site was busy with teams operating heavy equipment to complete phase 1 of the Mote SEA development effort: grounds work. Construction teams prepared and paved the southern end of Mote SEA’s future parking lot and partially completed the northern end of the lot so it could serve as a staging area for the next steps in site work and ultimately construction.
Phase 2 Approved, Full Blueprint in Review
In September 2021, Sarasota County commissioners approved the launch of phase 2—more extensive site preparation to make way for phase 3, vertical construction. As our fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, 2021, Mote was preparing to launch phase 2—securing the dirt that will be packed and settled as the base for Mote SEA (which will include dirt from the bottom of the adjacent lake), replacing drainage pipes between lakes at the north end of the park, and completing additional site work.
full blueprint for the vertical construction of Mote SEA and submitted it to Sarasota County for review.
$90 Million Milestone
In October 2021, Mote shared that $90 million had been committed by our philanthropic, public and corporate supporters in the $130-million Oceans for All campaign to create Mote SEA. Mote's team expressed immense gratitude for every gift, and for every person and organization who has helped so far, including first-time donors who pledged about 84% of the total.
Winter 2021–early summer 2022
140,000 Cubic Yards of Dirt... and More!
As we entered phase 2 of 3—the site work to prep for vertical construction of Mote SEA—the site underwent a major transformation. Contractors piled and settled approximately 140,000 cubic yards of dirt fill to form the building pad for Mote SEA. A pond at the north end of Nathan Benderson Park was drained and then refilled, allowing the contractors to replace pipes that enable flow among adjacent ponds. Mote scientists were on hand to ensure native fishes were transferred to nearby ponds and invasive species were removed. When the drained pond was refilled, Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby visited to congratulate the team on a major step completed, and he poured in the last few gallons of lake water to commemorate the occasion.
Feb 7, 2023
Vertical Construction Launched, $100 Million Raised
In July 2022, the Board of Sarasota County Commissioners unanimously approved the transfer of land for Mote SEA from the County to Mote, and construction permits were approved in August. Vertical construction began in September, when site workers began placing 346 auger, cast-in-place pilings 80 feet deep into the ground. This tremendous effort required a towering crane, 145 tons of steel rebar and 312 truckloads of concrete. By the end of Mote’s 2022 fiscal year on Sept. 30, more than $100 million in philanthropic, public and private support had been committed to the construction of Mote SEA.
July 25–26, 2023
Largest exhibit takes shape & major milestones celebrated
The 400,000-gallon Gulf of Mexico habitat—the largest exhibit in Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA)—began coming to life as a crane lifted two massive acrylic windows into place on July 25 and 26.
The windows, weighing 27,900 and 22,000 pounds, will give future visitors an immersive view of sharks, rays, sea turtles, tarpon, snook, red drum, snapper, parrotfish, coral reef formations and many other denizens of the Gulf that Mote is proud to call our blue backyard. One of the windows will also open up into a large multi-purpose room that will host a vast array of educational and community programs.
As a whole, Mote SEA is achieving milestone after milestone. The facility now stands tall with its three stories supported by scaffolding. Concrete has been poured for the second and third floors, and concrete for the first floor will be poured after removal of the scaffolding from the second and third floors.
Mote staff celebrated the latest wave of construction with a July 25 gathering of our generous corporate supporters, who have joined Mote’s individual donors and government supporters to commit more than $100 million combined toward the $130 million goal for creation of Mote SEA.