Study says Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority should take over Orange Bowl, other venues
By Susan Stabley
A study on the role of Miami's Sports and Exhibition Authority suggests the board, which oversees the Miami Arena and other entertainment and tourism interests, should take on management of several more city sites.
Accounting firm Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant, which surveyed 17 other US cities with multiple public arenas, said Miami should turn over operation of such venues as the Orange Bowl, Miami Convention Center and Bayfront Park Amphitheater to the sports and exhibition authority.
Consolidation of several city facilities under the authority would increase performance and save money by eliminating redundant management and staff, centralizing promotion and increasing access to funds, according to the study.
"We felt that the MSEA should be the entity to handle all of these properties and handle them well," said Richard Berkowitz of the firm. "Right now, (management is) spread all over. City departments are competing with each other."
Other facilities that could be absorbed by the authority include the Coconut Grove Exhibition Center, Gusman Center, Melreese Golf Course and the Manuel Artime Center. The study suggests that Dinner Key Marina, Dinner Key Boatyard, Miamarina at Bayside and Marine Stadium Marina continue to be managed by the city's Department of Public Facilities.
The authority was created in 1982 and is largely financed by revenue from Miami-Dade County's convention-development tax. Its mission statement is to "facilitate and promote sports, conventions, exhibitions, entertainment, tourism and related activities that will contribute to the economic and social growth of the city."
Currently, the main responsibility of the authority is to manage Miami Arena. The 16,600-seat facility, built in the late 1980s for $52.4 million, has been underused since the NBA's Miami Heat and the NHL's Florida Panthers moved to newer venues.
The arena also played host to the 2003 Latin Billboard Awards this year and MSEA has been negotiating an extension of the contract to bring the show back for more years. The need for other uses for the facility is paramount to the authority and was also a focus of the Berkowitz study.
The study, released in late May, mentioned other options for Miami Arena, such transforming it into a mass transit station or razing it, but recommended keeping it for its current use for the next three years.
The city sports authority also acts as a landlord for Watson Island, city-owned land on the MacArthur Causeway that is undergoing massive redevelopment.
The study examined more than 20 authorities in cities including Charlotte, NC; Boston; Tampa; and St. Louis. Mr. Berkowitz said the Miami authority is unique in that it is under the city's jurisdiction. Most others are a state or county department.
The Miami authority estimates an operating deficit of $48,255 this year, according to the study. Its revenue this year will be $1.1 million, with $926,745 coming from the county's convention-development tax.
The study will be hashed out for now by MSEA's finance committee, chaired by board member Sam Gentry. He said that he wanted to meet with City Administrator/City Manager Joe Arriola to see if a slow expansion of the authority might be the most efficient route for Miami.
"I think at this point, MSEA needs to define what its role is for the future," said Mr. Gentry. He said the authority needs to do more than make a "policy decision for a building that is not being fully utilized."