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Monday, September 25, 2023

It’s official: Mote has money, land to fund and build new aquarium

The Sarasota County Commission last week voted unanimously to approve the sale of 11.45 acres of county land to Mote for the nonprofit’s Science Education Aquarium (SEA) project at Nathan Benderson Park near University Parkway.

On July 12, the board members also unanimously approved the required “proof of funding” agreement that Mote had provided for county staff, showing that Mote has raised sufficient money to ensure that it can construct the new facility.

Accountants certified that Mote “has the resources, in cash, pledges, governmental commitments and a restricted line of credit to be able to fund $96,237,813 of the not to exceed construction contract of $116,237,813 as of May 31, 2022.”

Mote has paid $100 a year for the property, as made clear in the terms of the lease.

The agreement calls for the county to sell the acreage to Mote for $100, as well, after Mote achieved the benchmarks laid out in the document.

Both the staff memo and Johnson indicated that the sale of the land to Mote should be concluded within 30 days.

Further, that agreement said that Mote would have 24 months to begin construction of the Aquarium, after it purchased the county land, and it would have 42 months to complete the project.

“The Aquarium is going to be magnificent,” Commissioner Nancy Detert said. She added, “millions of visitors” will come to the new Aquarium

The expansion of space for research at the City Island location, Detert continued, will facilitate Mote staff’s work on hard scientific research.

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