LARGO, Fla. - a giant tarpon fish will soon hang outside on the wall of the former Gulf Coast Museum of Art.
"Pinellas County has a tremendous fishing heritage," said Jim Simons.
Because of that heritage and the popularity of fishing, Jim Simons founded the Florida Gulf Coast Center for Fishing and Interactive Museum. With the art gallery complete, the center will also eventually feature other attractions.
"There will be simulators throughout the museum for fishing, boat handling and for electronics management," said Simons.
Besides being a new destination location for tourists, the purpose of the center ultimately has a greater meaning.
"We wanted to teach children about life using fishing. And fishing's kind of a universal draw for the kids and adults," explained Simons.
After the Center for Fishing approached Pinellas County Schools about adding fishing clubs at the high school level, they had more than a thousand students sign up in the first three months alone.
Tarpon Springs students celebrated their victory over Clearwater after the first-ever competition between high school fishing clubs just last month.
"By the end of this year, we'll have 6,000 to 8,000 students in fishing clubs in our public schools. What a great way to keep kids attached to the school," said Simons.
Citrus and fishing are staples in the history of Pinellas County. Citrus has all but vanished.
"Fishing we still have, and how wonderful that we can celebrate it this way, and really promote more of that. So, I think it's just a great plus for the community," said Sandy Holloway of Seminole who was touring the facility.
Cathy Blackburn of Largo thinks the new interactive museum and fishing center is a perfect fit for Pinellas.
"It's well long overdue. We could really get a lot of new people to the area," said Blackburn.
The fishing center and museum should be fully stocked and ready for a grand opening later this summer.
You will soon be able to visit the finished website at http://www.centerforfishing.org/ , but in the meantime, check the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/FloridaGulfCoastCenterForFishing .
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