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Florida Hospital gives $2M for theater upgrade at MOSI

TAMPA — The Museum of Science and Industry will receive a $2 million grant from Florida Hospital to upgrade its IMAX theater with digital technology, the museum announced Friday.

To be named the Florida Hospital IMAX Dome Theatre, the revamped facility featuring movies in 3-D is expected to open in 12 to 18 months, said Molly Demeulenaere, vice president of growth and development at MOSI. The digital theater will be the only IMAX dome in Florida and is one of 90 in the world, she said.

A vendor has not yet been selected to construct the dome and a final price hasn't been decided, Demeulenaere said. She said any money not used in the theater's construction would fund other aspects of the science museum, calling the grant "imperative for our future."

A small group of children dressed in orange T-shirts from MOSI's summer camp set off confetti rockets to celebrate the announcement, made at a news conference Friday.

The grant, made by Florida Hospital West Florida Region, comes at a time when MOSI is facing financial struggles.

The museum operates rent-free in a facility owned by Hillsborough County government. In February, county officials hired a consultant to analyze operations at the nonprofit museum, which provides educational instruction for thousands of children each year.

Released a few weeks ago, the consultant's report revealed that MOSI was running at a loss, had issued misleading financial statements and engaged in under-whelming fundraising efforts.

Last year, MOSI asked the county for a $250,000 loan — when it still owed the county $250,000 from a 2012 loan.

MOSI hopes the IMAX theater will provide additional revenue, Demeulenaere said.

Mike Schultz, president of Florida Hospital, said the grant represents the start of an important community partnership to create programs, enhance science education and encourage more students to enter the health care field.

The first science education program at MOSI will feature certain surgeries from Florida Hospital, shown in real-time at another museum theater. Students in classes ranging from middle school to college will be able to ask the surgeons questions during procedures, he said.

"We hope to nurture future scientists and professionals," he said.

Contact Liz Crampton at ecrampton@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401.

Florida Hospital gives $2M for theater upgrade at MOSI 07/25/14 [Last modified: Friday, July 25, 2014 7:13pm]

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