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A Sneak Peek at the new Mote Science Education Aquarium

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Mote Science Education Aquarium

One of the most incredible new projects on our radar is the new Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA) currently in development and planned for Sarasota, FL.

The new 110,000 square foot marine science education aquarium will be built on 12 acres on the northern end of Nathan Benderson Park. The construction of the facility is expected to have a $280 million economic impact on the city of Sarasota.

About Mote Marine & The New SEA Facility

Mote Marine Laboratory is a non-profit marine research organization centered on City Island in Sarasota, Florida, with other sites in eastern Sarasota County, Boca Grande, and the Florida Keys. Originally founded in Placida, Florida, the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory was established in 1955 by Eugenie Clark. It was recognized as such until 1967 when it was renamed in honor of major benefactor, William R. Mote and the contributions he and his family had made.

The laboratory’s mission is to enhance marine science and education while also promoting marine conservation and sustainability. For the general public, study is interpreted through a public aquarium and related education programs.

Mote SEA Breaks Ground

The new Mote SEA facility which broke ground in October of 2020 and is projected to open in early 2023, is part of a $130 million dollar facility planned for the region. More than 65,000 children from Sarasota and Manatee counties will benefit from Mote SEA’s interactive state-of-the-art STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teaching labs and free educational programming. Mote SEA will be used to support their expanding scientific and technology programs, and expanded research facilities.

We were excited to learn more about the project and interviewed Michael Moore and Dan Bebak at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium along with Vito Mariano, President of Basecrete Technologies who has been consulting on the waterproofing aspects of the project.

Science Education Aquarium a Boon For Sarasota Community

“We are first and foremost a Marine research science laboratory,” said Dan Bebak, V.P. and Director of Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory, “the interest in the aquarium concept grew out of William R. Mote desire and some scientists at the time, to talk to the public about the research that the laboratory was doing and put a public face on our research.”

The aquarium portion of the currently facility displays more than 100 marine species including sharks, manatees, sea turtles, seahorses, rays, skates, and invertebrates including cuttlefish, octopuses, sea jellies, anemones, and corals. Other resident animals, such as sea turtles and river otters which are cared for by the trained staff and volunteers of the facility.

Emphasis on STEM and Workforce Development

“The impetetus for the new Science Education Aquarium is tied to the growth of research. In our City Island campus here, we are literally out of room. The concept was to build a new state of the art facility focusing not only on the public exhibits, but on STEM education. We’re going to have three interactive classes there hosting about 70,000 students every year to make use of those research laboratories totally free of charge,” said Bebak.

The three new STEM labs will be focused on Marine Ecology and Ocean Technology, while the third will deal with Bio Medical research. With resources and laboratories dedicated to workforce development, the excitement of expansion is focused on the educational benefits Mote SEA will offer the Sarasota community.

A large reason for the growth of the facility has to do with what is happening in our oceans and Mote’s researchers are right on the front lines. Expanding their conservation research is critical to their mission. “I think most of our exciting work we do is in coral reef restoration in the Florida keys, Turkey and the Carribean,” said Bebak, “we’re working with scientists around the world to grow these more resilient genotypes of corral and repopulate some of the damaged reef tracts that have been impacted by ocean acidification, temperature changes, and different diseases.”

Mote is Building a World Class Research Facility

The challenges of funding a world-class facility of this nature are considerable. In describing the process, Michael Moore, Special Advisor for Mote Marine elaborated. “$130 million by some standards is not a huge campaign but in our case, it’s the largest in the region that’s ever been done in.”

“The board and our CEO Dr. Michael Crosby have said we need to have all the commitments and pledges in place before we can actually start vertical construction of the building. So because a lot of people like to see something underway before they’ll step in and participate, it’s presented some challenges in that regard,” said Moore.

Getting Mote SEA Construction Started

“The 12 acres we’re actually building on is in a lake. We have to drain it, demuck it, put in the dirt and pack it down before we can even begin construction,” explained Moore, “for the funding, since it is the largest project in the region, we’re looking at three different sources, our philanthropic community, two counties are providing funding and the state, and corporate sponsorship. This building with 700,000 visitors a year, there’s a lot of opportunity there. We’re well on our way with over $90 million committed already.”

The team contracted to design the facility include TDS Design in Atlanta, who were the lead architects for the Georgia Aquarium, AOA Studios out of Orlando, FL. Two well known contracting firms Willis Smith Construction and Whiting-Turner will be working in partnership handling construction of the project.

On this specific type of facility, there are many different environmental concerns when using the different types of enclosures that will have to support marine life. “One of the challenges we’ve had here are is that this is a three store building. Some of our larger exhibits like the manatees and river otters are on the top floor. The Gulf of Mexico exhibit stands two floors,” said Bebak, “building a big pool on the roof of a hotel is a perfect example of kind of a similar thing. We’ve had to engineer it all so that it all supports itself.”

The Team Behind The Mote SEA Project

“Our lead engineers are EXP,” said Bebak, “the life support design and filtration, pumps motors, bio filters and ozone is being engineered by PCA Global out of San Diego. There’s a lot of materials involved but working with Basecrete’s been great, they’ve actually donated materials we’ve used here for our river otters and gator habitats and it’s been a great product. All of the products have to be resilient, we’re in there scrubbing down walls, animals are in there rubbing against it. Of course they have to be non-toxic because we have animals living in there.”

Waterproofing, Weatherproofing & Sustainability

Seeing as that aquatic enclosures are going to be suspended on the second and third floor of the structure, we asked Vito Mariano who has worked on numerous projects for Tampa, Miami, and Toronto Zoos what some of the technical challenges were with waterproofing these type of vessels.

“Deflection is probably the biggest issue we deal with. Depending on how much movement, how much support the beams and posts that are supporting it. We have pools that are 30, 40 stories up and sometimes they are quite challenging,” said Mariano, “if it goes beyond a certain percentage of movement we may have some difficulty. We want to make sure they are structurally sound enough before we do any waterproofing.”

“Waterproofing for marine life is a different challenge, we want to make sure that these animals are well taken care of and there’s no VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) or toxicities. Any elements that are harmful to marine life, we want to make sure that’s encapsulated,” said Mariano.

“Waterproofing and weather proofing is extremely important,” said Bebak, “there’s a lot of propriety additives in concrete mixes so we want to avoid water intrusion, cracking.”

Sustainability of the eco-environment is a big concern to Bebak, “We’re about 10 miles from the coast and so all of our seawater needs recirculating systems. In order to recapture as much of that saltwater and fresh water as we can we’re going to be using backwash recovery systems,” explained Bebak, “we’ll actually refilter and clean up that backwash, remove as much concentrated organic material as we can before that goes to waste. We’re also going to have heat exchangers that capture the thermal mass because we have to heat and cool water. All of these tanks require different temperatures all the way from our manatees to our penguins. To save on electricity we recapture the heat and cold from the backwash water to save as much as we can on utility costs.”

The design concept for the life support system and the plans to deploy green technologies to lower the carbon footprint of the facility are in line with the organizations goals for sustainability. This coupled with the exciting design plans for the Mote Sea facility make this intriguing project, one we’re following closely.

Learn more about this incredible project, and the Mote Marine mission on the Pool Magazin Podcast.

5/5 - (20 votes)

Editor in Chief of Pool Magazine - Joe Trusty is also CEO of PoolMarketing.com, the leading digital agency for the pool industry. An internet entrepreneur, software developer, author, and marketing professional with a long history in the pool industry. Joe oversees the writing and creative staff at Pool Magazine. To contact Joe Trusty email [email protected] or call (916) 467-9118 during normal business hours. For submissions, please send your message to [email protected]

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The Indoor Ocean Where The US Navy Tests Its Ships

Take an insiders tour of the Indoor Ocean where the US Navy tests its ships.

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One of the world’s largest wave pools sits at the United States Naval Surface Warfare Center. They use the facility to create waves of specific sizes, frequencies, and amplitudes. Since 1962, the US Navy has tested all of its ships, platforms, and moored systems in realistic sea conditions at the Indoor Ocean in NSWC Carderock.

Approximately 240′ x 360′, the enormous basin is 20 feet deep and holds 12 million gallons of water. In addition, it also once held the record for having the world’s largest dome.

Indoor Ocean Used To Predict Ship Performance

The Navy uses the facility to predict how their full-scale ships will perform in the open ocean by testing their stability and control in a vessel that simulates real-world wave conditions. The maneuvering and seakeeping basin, also nicknamed (MASK) is where the US Navy tests its fleet. Built in 1962, and renovated in 2013.

The Indoor Ocean received an upgrade from 21 slow and inefficient pneumatic domes to 216 paddles. Consequently, today, operators have better and more independent control. With 99 percent precision, the results produced at the renovated facility provide far more realistic conditions than its predecessor.

NSWC Carderock is one of eight Naval Sea Systems Command Surface Warfare Centers. Credit: DOD

Engineers at the facility evaluate operability, ship motions, and efficiency. MASK researchers can then use this information to fine-tune a new vessel’s design to maximize its chances of achieving the desired level of performance. Testing also aids in establishing operational guidelines for the crew and ensuring the correct configuration of the ship.

The US Navy uses the Indoor Ocean facility at NSWC Carderock to conduct tests for the design of its fleet. Credit: DOD

“There are many different kinds of waves,” Calvin Krishen, NSWC engineer, said in a YouTube video uploaded by the Department of Defense. “Waves are different in different parts of the world and they are different depending if you are close to shore, or away from shore or whether you’re in a storm or not. We actually have the capability of programming all those different types of waves to test.”

Conducting Testing & Analysis To Create Better Ships

Engineers perform rigorous tests and manufacture vessels to a smaller scale in order to see how they will perform out on the open ocean. Based on the analysis conducted at NSWC Carderock, ship designers can make necessary adjustments to improve performance in real-world conditions.

Ship designers can make any necessary adjustments based off analysis conducted during wave simulations. Credit: DOD

How This Enormous Wave Pool Works

The machine that operates the wave pool consists of a paddle system that lines two walls of the pool. The system consists of 216 individual wavemakers capable of producing waves of varying sizes from -45 degrees to 135 degrees.

The paddle system is programmed for choreographed movement. It creates reproducible, perfect-sized, perfect-frequency waves. Force transducers create air bellows that go across the pool at specific angular motions. The motion is akin to fingers moving across the keys of a piano.

A series of choreographed bellows control the paddle system that creates the waves. Credit: Vertasium

There are wave pools located all over the world but what makes the Indoor Ocean unique is its ability to create reproducible waves of specific amplitude and frequency. Wave conditions vary in different parts of the world. MASK, however, is capable of mimicking the same conditions that exist during various times of the year in any location across the globe.

Paddles are programmed to create repeatable waves of specific frequency. Credit: Veritasium

Why The Need To Upgrade?

The old pneumatic-powered wave system used antiquated technology. The Navy requires a facility capable of performing the rigorous testing demanded by engineers. In the past, the testing team sometimes had to relocate their models to the actual ocean and study the weather in order to recreate the perfect wave conditions.

Today, designers create models as large as 30 feet in length. Operators submerge them in MASK’s turbulent waters to simulate their future working conditions.

Data analysts conduct tests to see how ships will perform at sea. Image Credit: Licet Studios

Precise computer controls may be the most useful part of the new high-tech system. Testers can design a certain marine environment and tell the computer how to achieve it. Operators program a 3D model of the exact waveform they want to simulate.

“We can nail, at scale, the conditions all over the world,” said Jon Etxegoien, Head of Naval Architecture & Engineering, “So it’s not just that we can do some kind of rogue sea states, we can actually do the kind of seas they can expect in the North Atlantic, the South Pacific, littoral areas, that sort of thing. So that’s what gives us a real leg up. It’s not just some generic sea condition, but the specifics of where they’re going to be operating.”

Take a Tour Inside Where The US Navy Tests Its Ships

Does it shock and awe us that the United States military owns the best wave pool in the world? Not really. However, it does fill us with enormous pride to know that dedicated professionals perform the highest level of testing and analysis for the vessels that comprise our naval fleet.

Featured Photo Credit: Department of Defense

4.8/5 - (35 votes)

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China Claims Title For World’s Highest Outdoor Swimming Pool

New business tower in China has a pool with breathtaking views from the 71st floor.

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China Claims The Title For World's Highest Outdoor Swimming Pool

The title of the World’s Highest Outdoor Swimming Pool now goes to China. Construction of a new 1,322-foot-tall tower by Chicago-based architects Goettsch Partners is now complete in Nanning, China. The tower’s crowning feature is an outdoor swimming pool that, according to the architects, is the highest in the world.

Title for Highest Outdoor Pool Goes To China

The hotel’s pool on the 71st-floor terrace is 1,060 feet above the ground, making it the highest in the world. Previously, the 57th-floor infinity pool at Moshe Safdie’s Marina Bay Sands held the title.

Guangxi China Resources Tower claims the title for the world's highest outdoor swimming pool.
Guangxi China Resources Tower claims the title for the world’s highest outdoor swimming pool.

The Guangxi China Resources Tower, at over 2.93 million square feet, is the 18th tallest building in China and the 37th tallest building in the world. It is a mixed-use design that includes a hotel, office spaces, and retail.

More than 60% of the 86-story structure’s lettable space, or 272,000 square meters, will be occupied by offices. Approximately 6,000 square meters of retail space and a Shangri-La Nanning hotel with 336 rooms are also planned.

“The building is a symbol of rising prosperity for the city,” notes James Zheng, AIA, LEED AP, CEO and president of GP. “It further sets a world-class standard for quality that is meant to endure.”

The tower, developed by Shenzhen-based China Resources Land, will serve as the focal point of a brand-new 90-hectare urban quarter in Nanning. The podium and basement of the building are linked to the structures around it.

The hotel's infinity pool sits on the 71st floor of the massive sky scraper.
The hotel’s pool sits on the 71st floor of the massive skyscraper in Nanning, China.

Beginning in 2014, the building process will be completed by the end of 2020 (November). The company claims that the building is completely occupied and functional now that the interior fit-out is complete.

One of a Kind Panoramic Views

The hotel emerges atop the office volume, drastically altering the building’s profile. The lower volume is capped by a monumental terrace at Level 71, which serves as a one-of-a-kind outdoor sky space where guests can swim in the hotel’s pool. From sunrise to sunset, the sweeping 180-degree panorama offers unparalleled views of the surrounding lakes, parks, and mountains.

The tower is an essential part of a larger mixed-use development, and its design to LEED Gold standards places an emphasis on sustainable sites and energy optimization. The podium and basement levels of the various buildings work together to form a seamless network that is optimized for the greater master-planned development. Sunshades on the building’s exterior, combined with a high-performance façade enclosure system, allow for abundant natural light and breathtaking vistas to penetrate every level while significantly cutting down on energy consumption.

Mechanical systems have been developed to maximize the efficiency of operation, reduce energy and water use while increasing comfort levels inside the building. The highest quality materials are used throughout the structure to emphasize longevity and durability and lessen the building’s future impact on the local environment.

“The tower is a sustainable response to its urban context,” sayid Travis Soberg, AIA, LEED AP, in a press release. “The building integrates conservation methods throughout the design that reinforce our commitment to environmental responsibility.”

Photo Credits: Goettsch Partners

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Las Vegas Losing Classic Fire & Water Feature – Mirage Volcano Set to Close

Hard Rock confirms iconic Las Vegas fire feature, Mirage Volcano will close.

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Las Vegas Losing Classic Fire & Water Feature - Mirage Volcano Set to Close

The Mirage’s fiery volcano, which has been erupting regularly on the Las Vegas Strip for over 30 years, will soon cease activity forever.

Since MGM Resorts International sold the property to Hard Rock International last year, the resort has been undergoing a rebranding process, and the resort’s iconic volcano will not play a role in the new resort plan.

The time of the final eruption for the Mirage Volcano is unknown, and neither Hard Rock nor MGM officials would confirm exactly when the volcano would be dismantled. They plan to build another one of Hard Rocks guitar-shaped hotels in the space.

About The Mirage Volcano

When the resort opened on November 22, 1989, the volcano quickly became a fan favorite. A modeled three-acre paradise resembling the South Seas is routinely jolted awake by the ominous rumbles of the Mirage Volcano throughout the night. Rapid movement of water along with creative lighting resembles lava.

Exciting flames shoot over 60 feet into the air. If you’ve ever watched the show from the street, you can literally feel the searing heat. With music composed by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, more than 150 Fireshooters, developed by WET Design (who also created the Fountains of Bellagio), propel fireballs in a dramatic choreographed display.

The volcano was one of the first free attractions paving the way for others like the pirate battle at Treasure Island, the light shows and concerts at the Fremont Street Experience, and the Bellagio fountains.

From 8 p.m. until 11 p.m., the volcano at the Mirage continues its hourly eruptions. We took the opportunity to see this fiery spectacle, perhaps for the last time, while exhibiting at the PSP Deck Expo recently. The street was packed with onlookers watching the show on the street.

Elaine Wynn, who was married to casino magnate Steve Wynn at the time, first came up with the idea for the volcano as a great way to differentiate the Mirage from the competition.

In recent years, however, Las Vegas has been shifting away from a transparently thematic approach with its newest resorts, including the Cosmopolitan (2010), Circa (2020), and Resorts World (2021), and its reliance on free attractions and loss leaders, such as buffets and poker rooms, to bring in the bustling crowds.

Las Vegas Residents Eager To Keep Attraction

There has been a running sentiment amongst casino insiders that free attractions such as the Mirage Volcano have turned into a drain on profits. In light of the news that the Volcano is slated to be removed, many Las Vegas residents have expressed they do not want to see the attraction go.

“When I heard the news, I remember just wondering why this was going to happen,” Alden Gillespy, a longtime resident of Las Vegas and critic of removing the volcano, told the Las Vegas Sun. “The fact that they were going to tear down the volcano, that hit me personally.”

Every time it goes off, the Volcano in Las Vegas draws in hundreds of people, both young and old, to the Strip. The idea of tearing it down has been met with pushback. A group of passionate residents in Las Vegas has banded together to compel Hard Rock International and the city government to stop the new owner from demolishing what they say is a historic landmark. A petition to protect the volcano has over 9,000 signatures of support.

Among those who think the volcano should be preserved is UNLV history professor Michael Green.

“We lost a lot of hotels on the Strip because of the understandable need to build better, more modern hotels,” Green told the Sun. “The volcano is a reminder of how it helped trigger the modern Las Vegas boom.”

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