Mote Marine Aquarium announced plans Thursday for a $130 million science aquarium that is expected to put Lakewood Ranch on the map.

  • 110,000-square-foot space planned; 1 million gallons of exhibit water
  • Mote plans on breaking ground by 2019
  • New aquarium will be next to Nathan Benderon Park

The new design will double the size of the current Mote aquarium in Sarasota.

"For people who live in Sarasota where the seas and the water all around us, I think there is a special affinity for what Mote can do today and what they can do in the future," said Mote Chairman of the Board Robert Essner.

A state of the art 110,000-square-foot space with one million gallons of exhibit water is planned. It will not only house animals but expand the research Mote is already doing.

"Science is the attraction, science is first and foremost," said Mote Marine President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby.

The aquarium will offer interactive teaching labs, scientific demonstrations, and even on-site diving programs.

Mote plans on building the new aquarium right next to the Nathan Benderon Park.

The land is owned by the county, but Mote expects their proposal to pass smoothly.

"We believe that there is nothing that would prevent us from a either an environmental perspective or a regulatory perspective from securing a long term lease," Crosby said.

The $130 million expected to build the high-tech aquarium will come from fundraising efforts, with 20 percent of that funding already secured.

Mote plans on breaking ground by 2019 and opening the new doors by 2021.