MOSI may move downtown, community sees potential

Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) visitors might someday have the ability to learn about space and physics before taking a short walk to visit the Florida Aquarium or the Tampa Bay History Center in downtown.

While MOSI has been open to the public in its current location on Fowler Avenue since 1982, the museum may move to Channelside.

Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik’s development team, Strategic Property Partners (SPP), has begun talks with MOSI and Hillsborough County commissioners about moving the museum near Amalie Arena, according to a Tampa Bay Times article.

The move would be a part of Vinik’s $1 billion project downtown, which aims to redevelop nearly 3 million square feet along Tampa’s waterfront — including USF’s new medical school and USF Health Heart Institute. Channelside already includes the Florida Aquarium and the Tampa Bay History Center, and SPP CEO Tod Leiweke said MOSI would be a welcome addition to the educational institutions present in what could become the city’s new entertainment district.

Currently, there are no concrete plans to move MOSI from its current location next to USF, and while MOSI interim president and CEO Molly Demeulenaere said early discussions of relocating the museum downtown are exciting, moving a $120 million infrastructure is no easy task.

The decision for MOSI’s relocation to Channelside is up to both the museum and Hillsborough County commissioners, who are currently discussing the issue with Vinik’s team, according to several news organizations.

Bloggers around the area, like those from Saint Peter’s Blog and Voodoo Five, claim USF is currently looking into what could fill the 80-acre plot of land south of Fowler Avenue if the move were to take place. Specifically, they speculate the university would use the land for a new football stadium for the Bulls, or a research facility.

While the blogs cite the commissioners’ conflicting opinions on the move, with one commissioner saying it’s too early to have the conversation about a USF stadium due to lack of attendance and support at football games. Another commissioner’s similar pitch for a new Rays stadium was also countered with facts about the Rays lacking support at its current stadium in Tropicana Field.

At its current location, MOSI attracts approximately half a million visitors a year, and Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill speculated that the museum would attract more visitors downtown and be more convenient for tourists. 

Despite this, MOSI is also in close proximity to Busch Gardens, which annually attracts more than four million people each year — many more than any museum’s annual visitor count in the downtown area. 

Talk among commissioners is still ongoing, but it was made clear at a recent meeting that the county-owned land MOSI currently sits on would also be marketed to private companies, creating a number of options for the county to replace MOSI if commissioners and the museum commit to a move.

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