Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Deal Family Foundation Gifts $250,000 to East Coast Zoological Foundation for the Planned Aquarium and Conservation Center

Artists Rendering of the East Coast Zoological Society's planned Aquarium and Conservation Center in Port Canaveral
East Coast Zoological Foundation
Artists Rendering of the East Coast Zoological Society's planned Aquarium and Conservation Center in Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral - Tuesday February 20, 2024: The East Coast Zoological Foundation (ECZF) has announced a $250,000 gift from the Deal Family Foundation that will play a pivotal role in funding the Seagrass Nursery at the future Aquarium and Conservation Center in Port Canaveral.

This gift contributes to the continued cultivation of the future Aquarium through the Our Legacy Campaign, a $100 million community fundraising effort to build ECZF’s second campus. The future Aquarium and Conservation Center will be the second campus built by ECZF, which currently owns and operates the Brevard Zoo.

This latest gift is especially timely ahead of National Seagrass Day which falls on March 1.

“Seagrass is absolutely critical to any nearshore marine habitat, but especially the Indian River Lagoon. This Nursery at the Aquarium will develop and export best practices for seagrass growth and restoration all over the country,” said Scott Deal, Deal Family Foundation. “An added bonus is that the model is self-funding once operational and not grant-dependent. We are thrilled to play a small part in getting it going.” 

In recognition of the gift, the Seagrass Nursery will proudly feature the Deal Family Foundation name. The 1,750-square-foot educational Seagrass Nursery will highlight the vital role that seagrass plays not just as a food source for marine life but as a natural biofiltration system. The seagrass nursery will stand as a real-life, educational example of the innovative seagrass restoration work ECZF is undertaking throughout the Indian River Lagoon and its critical role in preserving the fragile ecosystem. 

ECZF has been working to restore seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon for more than five years. From constructing two seagrass nurseries to planting 24 pilot seagrass beds throughout the Indian River Lagoon, the goal is to better understand the success of seagrass plantings in various environmental conditions to aid future conservation efforts. This work will be amplified by the future Aquarium and Conservation Center’s Seagrass Nursery. 

“We are so thankful for the generous gift from the Deal Family Foundation, especially as we celebrate National Seagrass Day,” said Chief Executive Officer Keith Winsten. “The Seagrass Nursery will educate guests about what steps they can take in their everyday lives to help protect our waterways and demonstrate the impact that residential design and decision-making have, creating more environmental stewards in our community.” 

The gift was made by Scott Deal as part of the Deal Family Foundation, who previously owned Maverick Boat Group. Scott Deal is an avid angler who has been fishing in Florida waterways most of his life. He is a demonstrated leader in boat manufacturing and has played a national role in marine conservation and legislation, guiding the management of the country's saltwater recreational fisheries. Deal is a National Marine Manufacturing Association Hall of Fame inductee who has served on over a dozen national boards related to the marine industry and conservation organizations. He was the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Florida and has also been honored with the Eddie Smith Conservation Award. 

Groundbreaking for the future Aquarium and Conservation Center is expected in the fall of 2024, with an anticipated opening in early 2027. The future Aquarium will span 14 acres of shoreline along the Banana River in Port Canaveral, reflect the distinctive aesthetic of Brevard Zoo and facilitate meaningful connections between visitors and Florida’s marine life and coastal ecosystems. It will focus on coastal conservation, environmental education and the rehabilitation of imperiled marine species throughout Florida. The project is expected to create more than 900 jobs and attract over 300,000 tourists annually, engaging at least 525,000 visitors each year.