Mote Marine outreach center to open in May

Mote Marine outreach center to open in May
The live invertebrate touch exhibit will be the centerpiece of Mote Marine’s pier-based education outreach center. - Mote Marine | Submitted

ANNA MARIA – The grand opening celebration for Mote Marine Laboratory’s education outreach center on the City Pier is scheduled for Friday, May 5 at 10 a.m.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy made the announcement during the March 23 city commission meeting, noting that a special event permit for the grand opening celebration was included in that day’s consent agenda.

The celebration will take place at City Pier Park, across the street from the City Pier, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony planned at the pier. Murphy said a jazz combo will provide the music but, other than bottled water, no food, refreshments or champagne will be served. Manatee County commissioners and other local officials will be invited to the ceremony, which is also open to the public.

After the grand opening, the marine education outreach center will be open to residents and visitors on a daily basis free of charge. The hours of operation have not yet been announced.

Moving forward

When contacted Friday afternoon, Murphy said Mote met its recently extended deadline to submit by Friday an application for a permanent city-issued certificate of occupancy. Building Official David Gilson was expected to review the application and issue Mote its certificate of occupancy on Monday, or soon thereafter.

The certificate of occupancy allows Mote Marine to transport the marine exhibits built offsite and install them in the city-owned pier building. When appearing before the city commission on March 9, Mote Marine representative Kevin Cooper said the marine life will require a little time to acclimate to its new environment before the facility can be opened to the public.

Mote Marine outreach center to open in May
A visit to the pier worksite on March 9 revealed much remaining work to be done. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

The Manatee County Commission is providing up to $500,000 in tourist development tax revenues for the interior buildout of the city-owned pier building and the installation of the marine exhibits. The city is managing the disbursement of the county funds as invoices are received and reviewed. Any upfront costs that exceed the $500,000 provided by the county will be paid by Mote.

In September 2021, the city and Mote Marine entered into a lease agreement that provides Mote with five years of rent-free use of the pier building, with an additional five-year extension possible if so desired. In April 2022, the city commission approved a one-year extension because of the delays Mote experienced in getting the facility designed and the pier building transformed into an educational outreach center.

According to the lease, Mote’s buildout responsibilities included but were not limited to design, permitting and interior construction that included plumbing, flooring, ceilings, air conditioning, electrical components and more. The county funds also cover the costs to design, build and install the live and virtual exhibits.

Mote Marine outreach center to open in May
Mote Marine’s education outreach center will include live and virtual exhibits. – Mote Marine | Submitted

Once the outreach center opens, Mote will pay for the ongoing staffing and operational costs and volunteers will provide facility manager Jessica Rhodes with additional free labor.