ST. PETERSBURG — As the Pier project heads into the home stretch, city officials are making it official how the downtown waterfront destination — expected to open in late 2019 — should be known.
Thursday the City Council will vote on an ordinance to name the 26-acre district the St. Pete Pier. Earlier this year, the city submitted an application to make "St. Pete Pier'' a registered trademark.
Thursday's ordinance will also address naming rights at the marine education center being built halfway up the overwater section of the $76 million project. Tampa Bay Watch, a nonprofit with a mission to protect and restore the Tampa Bay estuary, has a lease with the city to operate the center and an agreement to be able to name the facility.
Founder and president Peter Clark said the words "Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center presented by Milkey Family Foundation," will appear on the building's exterior.
"The Milkey family is very generous in their support of the community and in particular the mission of Tampa Bay Watch," Clark said, declining to immediately reveal how much the St. Petersburg-based foundation is giving to his organization.
"We are still in the middle of our capital campaign for the Discovery Center and we look forward to other matching support from individuals and corporations in our area," he said.
The new ordinance will require the City Council's approval for any name given to the Tampa Bay Watch center.
Kevin Milkey, executive vice president of ASI, a St. Petersburg-based insurance company, said he and his wife, Jeanne, "feel strongly about the environment."
"It's just the future. ... Where we live in the Tampa Bay area is a precious resource. It's one piece in doing what we can to help the global environment," Milkey said.
He added that the main reason for the foundation's donation to Tampa Bay Watch, which is headquartered in Tierra Verde, is "the whole education piece" of its new project at the Pier.
"I love the fact that they do a lot of education, even at their current location," he said.
The Milkeys, who support other local organizations, recently committed almost $2 million to the Daystar Life Center, a downtown social services agency that helps the poor and homeless, for a new, larger facility that's being built in the city's Midtown area.
While St. Petersburg is building the shell of the Discovery Center, Tampa Bay Watch will be responsible for the interior improvements. The city is requiring the conservation group to raise $860,000 by January for the interior construction.
Clark said his organization believes it will able to fulfill the financial requirement by the January deadline.
"But there's still lots of work to be done to ensure the construction dollars are available," he said. "There's still a need to build and construct the exhibits and the educational platform."
Chris Ballestra, the city's managing director of development coordination, said St. Petersburg is "very comfortable" that Tampa Bay Watch will meet the January deadline. He said the organization has submitted two commitment letters totaling a half-million dollars and that with the Milkey donation, the group will exceed what the city requires.
Clark has said that Tampa Bay Watch will need about $2.2 million for exhibit development, construction and programing and to set up classrooms and run the center for its first year. The sum includes a classroom boat to take children out on the water and to be used for eco–tourism.
Ballestra said Tampa Bay Watch will likely not be required to get permission to name sponsored elements on the inside of the Discovery Center, such as touch tanks and exhibits.
St. Petersburg is also offering naming rights for other areas of the Pier. In April, the council approved a contract with Sports & Properties of Raleigh, N.C., to evaluate the Pier District's potential for generating revenue from naming rights.
"There are a number of areas throughout the Pier, the playground, the splash pad, the event lawn, any of those, we would run through City Council for approval," Ballestra said. " We are absolutely proceeding with naming rights opportunities throughout the Pier."
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at email@example.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.