Key Biscayne mayor on boat show: Anywhere but here

A shot from behind the Miami Marine Stadium, which has been neglected for years
A shot from behind the Miami Marine Stadium, which has been neglected for years

The Village of Key Biscayne, in another bid to block the Miami International Boat Show from anchoring at the Marine Stadium, has sent a memo to Miami-Dade County officials urging them to enter the fray on choosing a different location — such as Marlins Park.

The memo, sent Thursday by Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Lindsay and her staff to county commissioners, Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak, asks them to join an already litigious and controversial debate over the city of Miami’s plans to develop the grounds of the Miami Marine Stadium into an $18 million “flex park” — a public park that doubles as an event space — that would host the boat show.

Mayor Lindsay suggested sites including Marlins Park in Little Havana, which already has retail space; the former Bertram Yacht facility by Miami International Airport, which has water access; and Sunrise Stadium. One thing is made clear, however — put the show anywhere but here.

In response to the memo, Cathy Rick-Joule, National Marine Manufacturers Association vice president and Miami Boat Show manager, said boat show management had considered those locations, among others.

“The Marine Stadium Park & Basin was best suited to serve those goals, while also reactivating a site that has lay barren for more than two decades,” she said in a statement.

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The Miami International Boat Show, which has had to seek a new location while its previous site at the Miami Beach Convention Center undergoes renovation, already lists Marine Stadium Park & Basin on its website for its upcoming event, from February 11-15 in 2016.

The memo comes a week after Key Biscayne’s appeal of the “flex park” was shot down by city commissioners in a unanimous decision. The village argued that the park significantly changed the use of the land, which is intended as a public park under Key Biscayne’s master plan. Opponents also contended that the plans interfered with the stadium’s historic designation, which covers the stadium itself, a portion of its grounds and the stadium’s aquatic basin.

Though the decision allows the city to move forward with its project, which includes tidying up the property and installing utilities like sewage and electric lines, commissioners expressed concern that the city’s plan had grown larger than it first let on.

The memo essentially restates the village’s arguments made during the hearing, adding that Key Biscayne’s only bridge to the mainland would be clogged with traffic for the duration of the show. It also cited environmental issues, as the temporary docks the boat show would erect in the stadium’s aquatic basin are adjacent to a sensitive underwater ecosystem.

According to the memo, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a report in May saying that the plans to build nearly 300,000 square feet of temporary docks in the Marine Stadium basin would cause “substantial” harm to Biscayne Bay’s ecosystem, home to manatees, sea turtles and their nesting grounds, mangrove wetlands and native sea grasses.

Rick-Joule argued that the report “is a routine part of the permitting process for any projects in our waterways — a process the boat show’s management has gone through throughout the U.S.,” she said. “The NMMA has worked with the Army Corps of Engineers and other environmentally sensitive agencies for more than 30 years to ensure we comply with any requirement surrounding the boat show.”