Saturday, September 22, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa Bay Watch gets spot on St. Pete Pier for marine education center

ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay Watch, the conservation group based in Tierra Verde, will operate an outpost at the new Pier.

In a unanimous vote, City Council members voted Thursday to give the nonprofit organization a five-year lease to offer marine education programs at an area of the Pier that will feature an amphitheater leading down to the water.

Council member Ed Montanari, vice chairman of the pier advisory task force that produced the key 2010 report that has served as a basic guide to redevelopment of the pier, noted that marine education had been one of its recommendations.

It has taken some time, he said, "But here we are."

Chris Ballestra, the city’s managing director of development coordination, said the lease is the first for the over-water section of the 26-acre Pier District.

Tampa Bay Watch will lease 2,989 square feet near the center of the Pier, a site that will include an education station with a classroom, storage area, restrooms and an outdoor patio. There will also be a "wet classroom," with access to public amphitheater seating.

The group will pay nominal rent and be responsible for interior maintenance and utilities. It will also pay $5 a square foot — almost $15,000 annually — for maintenance of the Pier District.

Additionally, the organization will have to raise $825,000 for interior improvements. "It’s a big lift" for the nonprofit," Ballestra said.

Council member Darden Rice asked Peter Clark, founder and president of Tampa Bay Watch, about meeting the group’s fundraising goals. According to the lease agreement, it must raise $250,000 by Aug. 1.

"We want to make sure that they stay on schedule, so that we can begin the improvements at the beginning of 2019," Ballestra said.

Clark appeared optimistic about being able to raise the funds. Plans include soliciting naming rights for the education station and its exhibits. He also said that the organization will offer its facility for corporate and other events, including weddings.

The group, founded in 1993 to protect and restore the Tampa Bay estuary through scientific and educational programs, operates out of a 7,500-square-foot facility that serves more than 3,000 students a year, Clark said. He told the Tampa Bay Times that the Pier will offer another key location for it to teach marine science and environmental stewardship.

"We do a large number of school field trips at Tampa Bay Watch, so much so, that we’re pretty much maxed out at our marine center in Tierra Verde," he said.

"We see this as an opportunity to expand our field trip program to a new venue in downtown St. Petersburg. There is a huge need in our area for STEM-based outreach opportunities."

As part of its lease, the group will give the city nine scholarships for St. Petersburg students. It will also pay for two parking spaces and be allowed one boat slip south of the Pelican parking lot.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Concrete makes St. Petersburg pier plans more real

Clark said his organization anticipates enclosing the patio area on the eastern side of the education building for use as flexible classroom space. The current indoor space will serve as an exhibition hall, where a Tampa Bay exhibit tank will display "recreationally and commercially important fish and aquatic wildlife," he said.

"And we will also have some touch tanks for the kids and other hands-on exhibits that talk about problems and solutions in the Tampa Bay Estuary, such as seagrass, and oysters," Clark said, adding that the exhibits are still under development.

The exhibit hall will be open in the afternoons and evenings.

The organization will offer summer camps. Clark, who chairs the city’s Pier Education Advisory Team, said he anticipates taking advantage of other areas in the $76 million Pier District, such as Spa Beach, as teaching tools.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: The St. Pete Pier takes another step forward

Tampa Bay Watch submitted an unsolicited proposal last year to operate and manage the Pier education center. The city subsequently advertised for alternative proposals, but received no response.

Ballestra predicted that the organization will be a great tenant.

"They’ve demonstrated superior environmental stewardship of the waterfront since they were formed," he said. "They are excellent at what they do and we’re thrilled to be a partner with them."

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

Comments
USF’s Kitija Laksa begins play in FIBA Women’s World Cup

USF’s Kitija Laksa begins play in FIBA Women’s World Cup

Before resuming her assault on USF's record books, Kitija Laksa will try to make history with her homeland.A native of Riga, Latvia, Laksa begins play with her native country this morning in the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in Spain.Latvia is ma...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Football: Clearwater 34, Mitchell 7

Football: Clearwater 34, Mitchell 7

TRINITY — What at first looked like a defensive stalemate between Clearwater and Mitchell quickly turned into a rout.Clearwater had revenge on its mind Friday night after a 45-28 loss to Mitchell last year during the the regular seaso...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Football: Tampa Bay Tech 28, Hillsborough 27

Football: Tampa Bay Tech 28, Hillsborough 27

TAMPA — The decision was made as soon as Hillsborough got the ball back. Trailing by a touchdown with just over four minutes remaining against Tampa Bay Tech, the Terriers had the ball on their own 6-yard line.They hadn't been able to move the ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Football: Largo 35, Countryside 0

Football: Largo 35, Countryside 0

LARGO — The offense was relentless and merciless Friday night, but that has been the case a lot recently. Largo is scoring points in bunches and getting contributions from everyone. Add in a defense that has been smothering, as well as a special team...
Updated: 8 hours ago
How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

Active assailant. Run-hide-fight. Barricade the classroom. The language of preventing a shooting like the one this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is often filled with terms that can stir up fear in students, often out of necessity.But f...
Published: 09/22/18
Rays bounce back big after a debacle

Rays bounce back big after a debacle

TORONTO — The way the Rays played Friday — all nine innings, lesson learned — in beating the Jays 11-3 provided the best answer on how, or even if, they could rebound from the crushing loss the night before that all but ended their ...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Football: Sickles 7, Freedom 3

TAMPA — Sickles needed a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter to escape Freedom 7-3 on Homecoming and remain in the hunt for a Class 7A, District 8 title.Gryphons coach Patrick Murphy knew that facing the Patriots would be a battle. Freedom (1-...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Football: Armwood 24, Jefferson 14

SEFFNER — Armwood is becoming accustomed to winning close games.The Hawks fended off visiting Jefferson 24-14 in a defensive battle that featured a plethora of holding penalties in the second half.Armwood (3-1) earned two rushing touchdowns from juni...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Football: Plant 44, Gaither 34

TAMPA — Seventy-eight points. Eight hundred and 40 yards in total offense. Five players surpassing the century mark in yardage.When the game was over Friday, Plant had the edge in every category — including the scoreboard as the Panthers (3-1) opened...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Football: Robinson 28, Blake 25

TAMPA — Nevermind that Blake scored a go-ahead touchdown with 87 seconds left in the game.Forgive him, but part of Robinson junior Lateef Al-Shaa’ir was hoping it would happen just so it would set up a comeback.And it did.With 24 seconds left in the ...
Updated: 9 hours ago