SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium just broke ground on its latest state of the art facility.

Mote SEA will be a 110,000 square foot marine science education aquarium on the northern end of Nathan Benderson Park, just south of the UTC Mall.

The aquarium will feature more than one million gallons of exhibits with marine life and scientific displays from around the globe.

From construction alone, the facility is expected to have a $280 million economic impact. Once up and running, it’s expected to have an economic impact of $28 million each year.

Mote President and CEO Dr. Michael Crosby says this new site will be far more accessible than the current City Island location.

“We have been looking forward to this day for many years now. We have been very thoughtful, very strategic, we have done our research, our board of trustees has been very engaged, the community has been engaged in deciding that this location here at Nathan Benderson Park is without a doubt the absolute best location for the accessibility of all the science education opportunities that this new science education aquarium is going to be able to provide,” Crosby said.

As its name implies, Mote SEA (Science Education Aquarium) will be focused greatly on what Mote was founded on — science. Crosby told 8 On Your Side that Mote’s core values will set it apart from other aquariums in the area.

“While the other aquariums are great attractions, Mote was founded on science. Science is the heart and soul of Mote. It has existed for 65 years, but we didn’t even have an aquarium until 1980 when Mr. Mote decided it was very important for all of the people in the community and around the world to understand how important science is, but also how important the link is that we all have with our ocean. Our aquarium is really an informal science education center. It is where we translate and transfer the science, the innovative science that Mote scientists are doing all around the world into the exhibits and the stories that we tell,” the CEO said.

Mote SEA will also serve local students.

“Our staff have been working for over 12 months now with our local county school systems to ensure that based on the state of Florida education standards and focused on Mote research that Mote SEA will include three state of the art STEM education teaching labs that will be provided absolutely free of charge to all of our students all K-12 stem classes in Sarasota and Manatee districts and we are going to make sure that it is part of the educational framework,” said Crosby. “We want to make sure that it is integrated as part of our public education system.”

Once Mote SEA is complete, Mote’s current location on City Island will turn into a research facility. The project is slated to be completed in 2023.