Miami speeds ahead with plans for boat show

Miami International Boat Show, formerly at the Miami Beach Convention Center
Miami International Boat Show, formerly at the Miami Beach Convention Center

The Miami City Commission on Thursday voted to authorize a 10-year contract with a local company that plans to erect custom tents and temporary structures for the Miami International Boat Show, which next year is moving to Marine Stadium, despite vehement opposition from Key Biscayne.

Mayra Lindsay, the opposing village’s mayor, blasted Miami city officials following the vote. “Today’s actions prove there really is no measure the city won’t take to keep the Miami International Boat Show’s operator happy and evade the public process,” Lindsay said in a statement. “Every step of the way they have hidden the true intent and scope of this plan, which is clearly far more invasive and permanent than they’d like taxpayers to believe.”

Key Biscayne is suing the city of Miami and the boat show’s parent company, The National Marine Manufacturers Association, or NMMA, to stop the event from being held at Marine Stadium on Virginia Key. Last week, Lindsay sent a memo to Miami-Dade County officials, including Mayor Carlos Gimenez, urging them to join Key Biscayne’s fight against the boat show relocating from the Miami Beach Convention Center, which is supposed to undergo renovations in 2016.

Lindsay and village officials argue that holding large scale events at Virginia Key is going to clog the only bridge to the mainland with traffic, and that temporary docks erected for the boat show are going to damage the sensitive underwater ecosystem that is part of Marine Stadium.

Lindsay told The Real Deal the agreement between the city, NMMA and Eventstar, a Medley firm that builds structures for large scale events, indicates Miami officials plan to use Marine Stadium for other high-traffic events.

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However, city staffers told Miami commissioners that the arrangement, which requires Eventstar to install $350,000 worth of infrastructure at the site, is necessary so the company can effectively erect tents on the lawn.

Miami is investing $18 million to create an event space and park outside Marine Stadium. Deputy City Attorney Alice Bravo said Eventstar needs to install anchors into the loose ground near the entrance of Marine Stadium that will be used to strap down the tents.

City commissioners also approved another half-dozen items related to preparing Marine Stadium for the 2016 boat show including granting NMMA access to Virginia Key Beach Park for parking, and the Miami Rowing Club, Bayside Seafood and Rusty Pelican restaurants for concessions. Commissioners also greenlit a deal to allow the parent company to take over the Rickenbacker Marina for 40 days in exchange for $130,000 and 600 tickets to the boat show.

“We look forward to bringing the 2016 Miami International Boat Show to the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin, and continuing to support the Miami-Dade economy while generating $600 million in economic impact,” Cathy Rick-Joule, NMMA vice president and Miami Boat Show manager said in a statement.

Lindsay vowed Key Biscayne will not stop its efforts. “We will continue our fight through the courts to protect Virginia Key,” she said. “And ensure all those who frequent the island can continue to enjoy its recreational offerings and natural beauty.”