The groundbreaking at Nathan Benderson Park was moved back from September due to the bidding process for first phase construction.

by: Jay Heater Managing Editor, East County Observer

Speaking to the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance on Wednesday at Lakewood Ranch Country Club, Mote Marine President and CEO Michael Crosby said the $130 million Science Education Aquarium project will break ground Nov. 13.

Crosby, who was the guest speaker at the Alliance’s luncheon, had announced in July the project would break ground at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota in September, but the bidding process and other construction issues backed the ceremony up several weeks.

“In an ideal world, we would have, should have done it in September,” Crosby said. “But we had a few more pieces of paper that had to be taken care of, and the bidding process for the first phase took a couple of weeks longer than we expected.”

Crosby said builders Willis Smith Construction and Whiting-Turner are being very careful in their attempt to hire as many local contractors as possible.

“We want the majority of economic impact to stay local,” Crosby said.

He also said the sheer complexity of the building can lead to unexpected delays.

“You are talking about a massive, 110,000 square foot building that will contain the weight of a million gallons of water,” he said. “All kinds of things delay you for a week, then another week, then. …”

Crosby was adamant saying all the $75 million that had been collected by July is still in place. The aquarium, which is expected to attract approximately 700,000 visitors a year, will sit on 12 acres provided by Sarasota County about midway between the Nathan Benderson Park finish tower and the Mall at University Town Center. The architect is tvsdesign.

Crosby said Sarasota County’s $20 million commitment remains firms as does the $5 million commitment from Manatee County.

“Everything is moving along smoothly,” he said. “We are being very methodical because we are approaching this like we would a research project.”