Miami mayor, sports authority at odds over arena offices
By Yeleny Suarez
The Miami mayor's office wants to move the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority from Miami Arena, which the city recently sold, to the Orange Bowl but must await the next authority board meeting for formal action.
An aide to Mayor Manny Diaz said the aim is to restructure the authority and give it a new mission.
The direction from the mayor's office doesn't please all authority members.
"If we do not meet, then we do not exist," said Miami Commissioner Tomas Regalado, vice chairman of the authority. "The board staff is calling meetings, and the mayor or his staff is canceling them. I was appointed by the commission as vice chairman, and no one has consulted me on anything related to MSEA."
Otto Boudet-Murias, senior economic development adviser for Mr. Diaz who is chairman of the authority, said the mayor wants a meeting where the board can discuss how the authority will be restructured and what its new mission will entail. A meeting scheduled for Jan. 24 was cancelled because the mayor was out of town. Then he was ill for three days.
No new meeting has been scheduled, Mr. Boudet-Murias said.
Sources say the mayor's office rushed to move the authority staff out of the arena after arena owner Glenn Straub threatened during a city commission meeting on Thursday that he would sue the city over who would develop housing across from the arena. He argued that the city could get more for its money if it let him have the project because he planned to pay $3 million more than what Michigan developer Crosswinds was offering for a $200 million development expected to improve Overtown.
"In the past, we have discussed that they move to the Orange Bowl," Mr. Boudet-Murias said, "and considering they may take part in the potential redevelopment, it would be best that they move there than stay at the arena, where they play no role. But again, this will all have to be discussed at the next board meeting."
Mr. Regalado argued that the city has other motives. "A city official whom I will not name asked MSEA to pack things and move," he said. "If they have MSEA move without a board meeting, state statutes are being violated, and that is wrong. Nothing has been done with MSEA. ... It is as if the mayor and manager want to erase it and take over its funds for whatever plans they have.
"There is currently no executive director and financial director," Mr. Regalado said. "We have been trying to hire an executive director for a year, but nothing has happened. There is something strange ... borderline illegal going on here."
Mr. Straub, owner of Palm Beach Polo and Country Club who bought the arena Aug. 10 for $28 million at auction, has offered the sports authority free rent to stay at the arena for six months if the authority pays for utilities.
The offer was discussed at a board meeting Nov. 16, at which Mr. Regalado said, "I think MSEA should take the offer and stay until we find what it will handle. Later, we can offer Mr. Straub the $20,000 in inventory equipment in exchange for a year's rent."
Mr. Boudet-Murias said Mr. Straub rejected the lease agreement and there is no signed agreement for the authority to stay there.
"Someone is fabricating information," Mr. Straub said Tuesday. "First and foremost, Otto is not part of MSEA. Therefore, he should not be commenting on the lease. The board has not met for two months, and the people need to see it and vote for or against it. It hasn't even been presented to us yet. First they review, and if we accept, we sign last. That's the way it works."