City of Miami, Village of Key Biscayne fail to reach agreement

Renderings of the boat show
Renderings of the proposed park

In a Miami-Dade College conference room stacked with attendees wearing white T-shirts with slogans supporting the Miami International Boat Show, elected officials from the city of Miami and the Village of Key Biscayne failed to reach a compromise regarding the future home of the annual event.

For months, the village and the city have been locked in a contentious battle over the relocation of the boat show to Virginia Key’s Marine Stadium from the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Key Biscayne is suing the city and the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, the boat show operator, to stop next year’s event, which is scheduled to take place February 11-15.

Miami is also investing $16 million to convert a parking lot near the stadium into a park and event space.

Mayor Tomas Regalado and Mayor Mayra Peña Lindsay

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Peña Lindsay

Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Peña Lindsay said the village is not against the boat show finding a new site.

“We just do not believe the boat show is suitable for that venue,” Lindsay said. “We are concerned the flex park being a Trojan horse.”

John Shubin, Key Biscayne’s attorney, said consolidating all of boat show activities on Virginia Key is too intense.

He said the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association and the city have not made clear if Virginia Key will be the new permanent home of the boat show. “What will the boat show look like?” Shubin said. “How big is the boat show going to be? What is the actual footprint?”

Assistant City Manager Alice Bravo gave a presentation with renderings of the proposed park without the boat show, as well as a traffic plan during the show.

Bravo explained that the marine association will have a ferry service for boat show attendees from downtown Miami, as well as shuttles between parking sites at American Airlines Arena and Marlins Park. Exhibitors and their employees would be the only ones allowed to park onsite, he said.

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In addition, the city of Miami will have police officers stationed at the entrance of Key Biscayne to turn people around who are going to the boat show.

Lindsay said Bravo’s presentation illustrates the village’s concerns with the boat show at Virginia Key.

“I applaud your Herculean efforts,” Lindsay said. “But I think this demonstrates and highlights some of the challenges with this site. This is unmanageable.”

Key Biscayne Village Councilman Luis de la Cruz scoffed at Bravo’s assurances that NMMA and the city could get event-goers to ride a shuttle into Virginia Key.

“How likely do you think people in Miami will not take their cars over the causeway?” de la Cruz said. “We have to make sure we don’t have gridlock. We are trying to keep the last vestage of pristine land from ruin.”

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said that if the village council is that concerned about potential gridlock, then they should also be working with the city to address the traffic congestion created by the Miami Open tennis tournament, an annual event the village supports.

“Either cancel the tennis tournament or help us alleviate the traffic,” he said.

Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said he shared the same concerns Key Biscayne has when the boat show first proposed moving to Virginia Key. “We are debating over one event,” Sarnoff said. “No one wants to see the boat show leave Miami. The boat show has an amazing and enormous impact on the local workforce and the region. I don’t think we should lose that.”

Sarnoff also challenged village leaders to partner with the city to pay for half the costs of creating a $16 million park at Marine Stadium.

“Why don’t you join in and have the village put in $8 million and we’ll call it a joint venture,” he said.

At the end of the meeting, both sides agreed to appoint a lone representative from each of the elected bodies to continue hammering out a possible resolution.