Move to downtown Tampa makes a lot of sense for Museum of Science and Industry, study finds
TAMPA — A move to downtown Tampa would bring more people and revenue and a fresh start to the city’s struggling Museum of Science Industry.
That’s the conclusion of a long-awaited consultant feasibility study released Friday, which also said relocating MOSI from it’s Fowler Avenue location could also allow the museum to downsize to a more manageable and flexible footprint.
“MOSI has a rare opportunity to reinvent and rebrand itself as a 21st century museum of science, industry and technology concurrent with a move to downtown Tampa,” a report written by two consultant groups, Museum Management Consultants, Inc. and ConsultEcon, said.
More specifically, the consultant group looked at the prospect of joining the development spearheaded by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.
Vinik first raised the specter of relocating the museum a year ago.
A move still faces a number of hurdles before it would ever come to fruition. It would need approval by the museum’s board of directors. Some on the board have privately expressed reservations about leaving MOSI’s longtime home near University of South Florida.
“While there’s no specific timetable in place, we are fully committed to making the right decisions for MOSI and our community as we move toward next steps,” said MOSI Board Chair Mike Schultz, also the president and CEO of Florida Hospital West Florida Region.
It would also need approval from Hillsborough County, which owns the land around MOSI. County Administrator Mike Merrill, though, has said he would like that property to generate taxes for the county and that a move to Vinik’s development is a rare opportunity that likely won’t come again.
The county has helped prop up the museum during its recent financial struggles. MOSI has operated at a deficit for several years and has cash-flow issues and significant debt. It’s also a struggle to maintain the museum’s existing sprawling, spacious campus.
Moving would allow the museum to restart with a more financially sustainable operation, and a significant private fundraising campaign plus some public contribution could allow it to open debt free.
While the report did not make a recommendation, it was clear that a move, done right, would be a boon to the museum.
“This study is the first step in looking at the future of MOSI – not just where it will be located, but how it will become a powerhouse in our region’s education ecosystem,” said MOSI President and CEO Molly Demeulenaere. “MOSI’s broader plan is to serve as a pillar of prosperity in Tampa Bay by driving real-world learning and fostering life-long wonder.”