Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Straz Center, MOSI, Florida Aquarium get state grants

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TAMPA — The $74.1 billion state budget signed Monday by Gov. Rick Scott will bring a half-million dollars toward renovations for the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

Patrons will see a spruced-up center with new carpets and new seats in theaters.

The money — matched with $1 million from the performing arts center's capital reserves — will pay for renovations to its three major theaters.

"Our facility is 25 years old and has seen 12 million patrons come through our doors," said Lorrin Shepard, chief operating officer at the Straz.

Renovations at the center were planned with an eye on sustainability, using recycled materials and upgrades to water and electrical operating systems.

Battery-powered sensors will save water at the center's 60 restroom sinks and 90 automatic flush toilets. Thousands of lamps will be replaced with low-wattage LED lighting.

"Serving that many people, the energy savings really add up," Shepard said.

The updates will also cover Carol Morsani Hall and Louise Lykes Ferguson Hall with new carpets and should be completed by April 2015.

The money flows through the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs as a cultural facilities grant. The arts center, which is a public-private partnership, has received other grants through the same process in past years, Shepard said. Cultural arts centers in other states are not always as lucky, he said, and often scramble to find public funding.

"There have been some lean years," he said, "but better days are back. Floridians should feel proud."

Two other cultural destinations in Tampa received funding through this year's state budget.

The Museum of Science and Industry will get $250,000 to turn the 73-acre campus into a STEM Zone, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics enterprise. Wit Ostrenko, president of MOSI, said the project will lure such industries to Tampa and ultimately work to solve some of humanity's biggest problems, such as relieving hunger and tracking terrorists.

The Florida Aquarium will get $39,575 for its underwater archaeology program. The 6-year-old program has excavated the 19th century Shake's Wreck, off Egmont Key, and will investigate up to six targets in the Hillsborough River, at Ballast Point and on Egmont Shoals.

The money will support fieldwork and conserve any artifacts recovered, which will be the property of the state and on loan to the aquarium.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.

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