A patch of land bordered by Gornto Lake, Providence Rd. and Bloomingdale Ave. in the heart of Riverview is one of two locations developers are currently eying, as the possible new home of Shore Lab Discovery Center, an aquarium complex that has been in the making for almost two decades.
If everything goes as planned, and the best location is established, the ambitious project may very well become a reality within the next four-five years offering a four-level complex designed to draw in millions of tourists and local residents, while showcasing numerous inside tanks and outdoor exhibits.
According to the nonprofit Shore Lab Corporation CEO Steve Robertson, the $250 million facility will hold approximately 25 million gallons of water and house more than 5,000 species of plants and animals ranging from antiquity to present day, tropical rainforests, the deserts, tundra and temperate regions, as well as, the major waterways and oceans of the world.
“We started planning this project 20 years ago, by looking to offer the next thing in science and education, as well as attract tourism to the area,” Robertson said. “The center will not be just about water, but what it means to our planet. It is a learning lab encouraging participation and growth at one’s own pace.”
As it is planned currently, the technical devices, satellite monitors and measuring devices will give the explorers a real- time view of the planet’s climatic conditions, oceans and land masses.
Visitors will get a chance to see how scientists gauge pollution, analyze data and learn how climatic events that occur along the world’s coastlines influence life inland.
The estimated time of circulation through the aquarium is three-and-a-half hours. The facility’s research and education center, aquarium—which also includes high-tech educational classrooms, auditoriums, conference rooms, gift shops and dining—a well as ecological park and a 500-seat 4-D IMAX theater is clearly promising something for everyone.
While Florida Aquarium spokesman Tom Wagner reportedly said that he didn’t see much difference between Shore Lab’s mission and Tampa’s aquarium and that the Bay area already is home to aquariums from Sarasota to St. Petersburg, and that they are all offering exceptional educational programs, Robertson was positive about Shore Lab’s purpose.
“Shore Lab Discovery center will be a wonderful complement to the existing nearby aquariums,” Robertson said. “I truly believe it is a positive endeavor and project.”
Robertson said that besides the dozens of volunteers the center will bring to the area more than 200 full time and close to 100 part time jobs, not to mention Shore Lab’s estimated $100 million economic impact to the area.
Due to the size of the project Robertson said that the center may have to be done in several phases, accompanied by raising funds, and receiving financial support, as well as grants and federal and state funding.
For information, or to donate to the project, please visit www.shorelabdiscoverycenter.org.