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Front Page » Top Stories » Miami International Boat Show, Marine Stadium on collision course?

Miami International Boat Show, Marine Stadium on collision course?

Written by on January 28, 2020
Miami International Boat Show, Marine Stadium on collision course?

There remain serious concerns among those supporting restoration of Miami Marine Stadium that the millions of dollars going into rebuilding it may be wasted if the Miami International Boat Show continues to control the city-owned property in the peak tourist season.

The boat show is held in mid-February on Virginia Key, under a license agreement between the City of Miami and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).

Members of the Virginia Key Advisory Board continue to be critical of the boat show monopolizing the site around the idled stadium from December through March.

The latest contentious discussion between board members and Larry Berryman, boat show director, unfolded at the board’s Jan. 21 meeting.

The discussion began after board member Vinson Richter summarized a Jan. 10 letter he wrote to fellow board members expressing shock and frustration over the boat show’s apparent unwillingness to shrink the time it ropes off the site.

For his part, Mr. Berryman continued to defend the NMMA, said it is doing the best it can to shave days off the set-up and tear-down, and repeated a promise to work with the city to resolve the issue.

“I am particularly disturbed by NMMA’s response … regarding the time it takes to set up and take down the show,” Mr. Richter wrote. “…this issue has been one of the major topics of discussion by our board since its inception. I believe the [board] has been consistent that a 3.5 month put up / take down schedule from Dec. 1 through March 15 – the prime months of the season – is unacceptable and in direct conflict with the envisioned event and operations schedule for a restored Miami Marine Stadium.”

He continued: “And, disappointingly, instead of opening a discussion as to how the NMMA might reduce that timeline, it has doubled down on a resolve to memorialize that problematic schedule.”

The city owns much of the island, along with the waterfront stadium, idled since 1992’s Hurricane Andrew. 

The city has numerous projects underway on the island that are expected to impact each other, from restoration of the stadium to improvements to the flex park acreage that hugs the stadium.

The boat show has used the flex park area and the historic basin since its 2016 event.

Mr. Richter said he visited the property around Jan. 2 and was expecting to see very little had been done.

“And I was shocked, because all of the tents were pretty much up, in 30 days. And I said wow, I was expecting to not see anything. But what I saw was that all the tents were up, pretty much, in 30 days,” he said, again questioning the long time period the NMMA locks up the site.

“And so that was the point of the letter; why isn’t the boat show trying to compress the schedule instead of taking all of the time that they want? And if that’s the way it’s going to be, then the city should charge more rent, or look for other alternatives. That’s just my opinion,” said Mr. Richter.

His letter concludes this way: “As I have stated many times before, there’s a ‘train wreck’ coming: a conflict between the operations of the Miami Marine Stadium and the Boat Show. As much as I love the Boat Show and its operator, it’s time for NMMA to recognize its obligations under the lease and to take this issue seriously. If not, perhaps the City of Miami would be better served to explore other alternatives.”

Mr. Richter’s last sentence was in bold print.

Mr. Berryman responded, “We’re looking at ways to compress our time… We did start our build later this year and hope we can shave off some time on the breakdown as well. But again, to build a world-class event starting from scratch and turning it into something special does take a significant amount of time. Have we been able to shave time off that, yes. Has it been 30 days, no.”

He added, “I understand the issue… we’re doing everything that we can to compress that timeframe.”

Board member Lynn Lewis said city staff has defended the NMMA, saying the organization has assured the city it is doing the best it can.

“We’ve got a job to do, which is to do the best we can to make this wonderful spot available to the public who own it,” Ms. Lewis said. “And so assurances and good faith are great but there’ve got to be metrics that measure, wherein the city says, ‘we hear you, you’re assuring us but yes, we agree, it can’t be better or it can be better and this is how.’”

She added, “… this is public property and I wish there had been, or would start to be, an obvious recognition that every day that NMMA has site control to the exclusion of the public could be considered, and would be considered by some people on this board, as a breech or a dereliction of the public trust for public park property, and I’d like to see a greater, obvious acknowledgment of that.”

A couple of board members said they agreed with Mr. Richter and Ms. Lewis, including Peter Ehrlich.

“I really think the boat show needs to figure out a way to shorten the setup and takedown,” Mr. Ehrlich said.

Board Chair Joe Rasco asked Mr. Berryman about what the NMMA plans when construction begins to restore the stadium.

Mr. Berryman answered: “Once projects get going, we’ll be mindful of how we can work together… for marine stadium, which is a piece of it. I’m quite certain we can find a path to construction that can be continued while the show is open.”

Don Worth, a Miami Beach resident and longtime supporter of stadium restoration, said: “You can’t spend $45 million and have one of the greatest open-air venues in the world closed most of peak season. It doesn’t work.”

Mr. Worth concluded, “Here’s the thing: You’re the landlord. You’re the landlord. You own it. The city spent money on it. This has to be resolved… I like the boat show, but three and half months, way too much.”

9 Responses to Miami International Boat Show, Marine Stadium on collision course?

  1. DC Copeland

    January 29, 2020 at 8:15 am

    The Boat Show has to go if the NEW Miami Marine Stadium is to be everything it was meant to be. Let them build their own water-based show someplace else, maybe on the Genting land and waterfront. They should be OUT when the ONLY marine stadium in the world opens.

  2. james

    January 29, 2020 at 9:48 am

    i think the show is great. im there every year and i live in tn so wer r spending a butt load of money to come to the show with planes hotels food etc for a week. i agree maybe they could run a 24hr crews to set up and take down maybe that will speed it up. let me ask this since it shut down in 92 after the hurricane, what did they do that was so important with this area between 92 and first int boat show? i know its public land but i think the business owners love the extra money during the show and last i was there in dec there was nothing going on. so if they r going to start using it during this time then charge them the rent it would be for another group to come and rent it out for dec. thats all the city wants is money they dont care if Betty is walking her dog and shitng on the ground in dec, she still does it now weither the show or someone else is renting it out. so from 92 to 16 how much have much have they done with this space?

    • Jack mehoff

      January 29, 2020 at 11:26 pm

      Since 1992 when it closed the city of Miami hasn’t done a damn thing with Marine Stadium! Through out the 90s and early 2000s i personally raced waver runners/ jetskis there almost every Saturday and Sunday. They let Ultra Music Festival use it for there venue and it was a complete disaster!
      Marine Stadium is a complete shit hole used for many years for local miami graffiti artist to
      Use as there canvas.

  3. Unwelcome tenant?

    January 29, 2020 at 11:36 am

    The City of Miami is paying an architect/planner based in Colorado over $900,000 to design a $90+/- Million new plan for the site. That taxpayer investment will be wasted if City officials continue to pander to marine industry salespeople. The Boat Show sales event needs to shorten its stay and it needs to pay meaningful rent.

  4. Harold

    January 29, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    Perhaps the Boat Show can return to the City of Miami Beach? Let Miami residents get its public park back.

  5. Jon Smith

    January 30, 2020 at 9:33 am

    The elitist, rich residents of Virginia Key hate everything about the show except the filthy lucre it generates to line your pockets. The NMMA should show them their keister and go somewhere they are appreciated.

    They will build the new stadium and have three free cover band concerts a year.

  6. Joseph R Roth

    February 2, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    Let the Marine Stadium be built this is a Miami Icon and should be built again. We can have night concerts on the water.Water sports during the day as it was when it was frist built.Move the boat show to another water front property..

  7. edward hunt

    February 17, 2020 at 8:08 pm

    terrible show will never be back again

  8. Joseph R Roth

    February 19, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    BUILD THE STADIUM as it was back in the days with concerts and boat races.This is what it was built for from the start…. Forget the boat show move it to another date or location.