Head Of Miami Sports Authority Resigns
By Susan Stabley
With reorganization of his realm looming, the head of Miami’s sports authority has resigned.
Sports and Exhibition Authority Executive Director and CEO James Jenkins – the group’s 10th executive director in its 20 years – resigned in a letter to Mayor Manny Diaz, the chairman of the authority’s board.
Kelly Penton, spokeswoman for the mayor, would only confirm the resignation. Requests to see the letter have not been answered.
Neither the mayor nor the board pressed for his resignation, Mr. Jenkins said Monday.
"I made that decision," he said. "For a while, I struggled with it. There are many things I like about the job, but its time. There are other things I want to do."
Mr. Jenkins said he was paid about $93,000 plus health benefits and a car allowance. He ran a staff of five and was responsible for Miami Arena, which employs about 30.
Several authority board members said they had not been notified of the departure.
"I’ve only heard the rumor of that. I haven’t heard officially," said member Sam Gentry.
City of Miami Commissioner Tomas Regalado, vice chairman of the authority, said Oct. 1 that he discouraged Mr. Jenkins from resigning at a September board meeting. Rumors had been floating that a replacement had been identified, he said, but he said a decision would come during public meetings.
The resignation comes as an expansion of the authority’s role is being weighed.
The authority, created in 1982, is largely financed by Miami-Dade County’s convention-development tax and operates on a $1.15 million budget. 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."
A study this year by local accounting firm Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant said Miami should turn over operation of the Orange Bowl, Miami Convention Center and Bayfront Park Amphitheater to the authority.
Also to be considered is the authority’s role if officials move to build a baseball stadium in the city. Board member Marianne Salazar said she would raise the issue at the next meeting.
The authority manages Miami Arena and entertainment and tourism interests such as Raceweek and acts as landlord for Watson Island.
The city is studying a plan to consolidate several facilities under the authority, said Mr. Gentry, head of the authority’s finance committee. "It’s got large, large city ramifications," he said.
Mr. Gentry said a search for a new director might be held off until the board clearly defines the authority’s mission.
"The new director should have a snapshot of the vision for a new mission," said board member Eli Feinberg, a longtime advocate of an expanded role.
Until then, the mayor probably will appoint an interim director, Mr. Feinberg said. A search similar to one that selected Mr. Jenkins in 2000 would probably come next.
A former marketing executive for Walt Disney and Harrah’s Casino in Kansas City, Mr. Jenkins was brought in to help breathe new life into the 16,600-seat Miami Arena, built in 1988 and which has been struggling since the loss of the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers to newer venues.
"He came into a bad situation and tried to correct it," said board member Al Huston. "I don’t think Houdini could get out of that."
During his tenure, the authority wrested control of the arena from a management company. It’s now home to a minor-league hockey team, the Miami Manatees. The Berkowitz survey estimated that the arena is in use about 100 days a year, moonlighting as a venue for musical events.
On Monday, it hosted The Source hiphop music awards. Earlier this year, it was the site of the Billboard Latin Music Awards.