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Mote falls millions short in request for funding from Manatee County

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Mote Marine Laboratories request for $5 million in Manatee County Tourist Development Council Funds was not met with approval.

Instead, the Manatee County TDC opted to recommend allocating $50,000 per year for 25 years for a total of $1.5 million.

Additionally, the organization voted unanimously to inform Manatee County Commissioners that it supports Mote Marine Laboratory as a “priority.”

But that designation as a priority also fell short of Mote’s request to be recommended as a “Top 3 priority.”

The request emanates from Mote’s plan to build a Science Education Aquarium at Benderson Park near the University Parkway and I-75.

The request from Mote was made last week by its President and CEO Dr. Michael Crosby who asked for the $5 million to support marketing and outreach at its current aquarium on City Island.

Crosby pointed out that about 350,000 visitors per year come to Mote and that Mote will be providing a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Learning Laboratory, which Manatee County students will attend for free when the new aquarium is built at Benderson Park.

Restaurant owner and TDC member Ed Chiles urged the council for caution on how it budgeted. Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston also sought more information. But it was Chiles who made the motion that the Manatee County Commission spend $1.25 million in tourist tax funds to market a new aquarium for 25 years after construction is finished.

Mote is planning to build the $130 million aquarium facility on four acres of Sarasota County property, which the county has agreed to give to Mote through a lease/option. Additionally, Sarasota County has pledged $20 million toward the new aquarium. Last year, Mote asked Manatee County to contribute $15 million toward the new facility, but that amount has yet to be approved.

Ultimately, it is the County Commission that decides where the tourist development tax money is allocated.

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