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A logistical challenge

Preparations for Miami shows include a $200,000 traffic plan, shuttles, prepaid parking and water taxis between venues
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The tents were going up, and other site work was in progress in mid-January at the Virginia Key site of the Miami International Boat Show.

The tents were going up, and other site work was in progress in mid-January at the Virginia Key site of the Miami International Boat Show.

The ink was barely dry on the last permit needed for the Miami International Boat Show to move to Virginia Key when NMMA president Thom Dammrich made it official at a packed Jan. 14 meeting of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida: “The show is happening,” his slide show said in big, bold letters.

“You can see them building it right over there,” he crowed, pointing to the tents and docks going up about a quarter-mile east off Miami’s Rickenbacker Causeway. At earlier show updates, Dammrich’s lead slide had asked, “Is the show happening?” He would answer his own question, “Trust me. It will happen.” And so it will.

Forced out of its longtime venue at the Miami Beach Convention Center because of a multiyear renovation, the NMMA has teamed with the city of Miami to relocate the Feb. 11-15 show to the city’s Miami Marine Stadium property on Virginia Key.

“This is going to be an epicenter for the marine industry for a long, long time,” Dammrich predicts.

The relocation has survived a salvo of legal challenges from Key Biscayne, which said the show would hurt the environment and snarl traffic on the causeway. The courts didn’t buy it. Nor did the city of Miami, which is undertaking a $20 million upgrade of the property just north of the Rickenbacker Marina.

“This is an ideal location for a boat show,” Dammrich says. “It’s an island paradise.”

Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, president of Show Management, the co-owner of Yachts Miami Beach, formerly the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach, also was at the Jan. 14 meeting to update the packed banquet room at the Rusty Pelican restaurant on Virginia Key about Yachts Miami Beach, which Show Management owns with the Florida Yacht Brokers Association.

Yachts Miami Beach also will run Feb. 11-15 but, as Zimbalist stressed, it is separate from the NMMA show and will remain at the location on Indian Creek along Miami Beach’s Collins Avenue, where it has been for 28 years. The show has no admission charge.

Yachts Miami Beach has added a superyacht venue at Island Gardens Deep Harbour Marina on Watson Island, where the water is 21 to 25 feet deep at low tide and the dockmaster can take yachts as large as 550 feet. The expansion to Watson Island enables Yachts Miami Beach to berth the superyachts whose drafts and overdrafts are too deep or high to enter Indian Creek, Zimbalist says. Dane Graziano, Show Management’s COO, says about half of the marina’s 74 slips will be filled for the show

Exhibitors at Yachts Miami Beach can reserve a private van for any of their customers who want to board the superyachts and ferry them from Collins Avenue to Watson Island, Graziano says. There will be no exhibit booths, just the yachts, at Island Gardens.

Yachts Miami Beach runs from 41st to 54th streets on Collins Avenue. Zimbalist describes it as the “central galvanizing event” for yacht buyers from Central and South America, although it draws from Europe, Russia and elsewhere, as well.

The 2016 edition of Yachts Miami Beach will display 500 new and brokerage boats, most of them larger than 50 feet, Zimbalist says. Dammrich says the NMMA show, the 75th anniversary edition, will display 1,200 boats — 500 at temporary docks in the stadium’s deep-water basin and the rest on land. The NMMA’s Strictly Sail remains at the Miamarina at Bayside Marketplace.

Transportation and parking were much on the minds of those at the meeting. Dammrich says the NMMA has spent $200,000 working out a parking and transportation plan that provides 10,000 parking spaces on the Miami side of the Rickenbacker Causeway, transportation from parking lots to the show on shuttle buses and water taxis, and platoons of police on roads feeding into the show to keep traffic flowing.

“We’ve invested in the most comprehensive transportation and parking plan this city has ever seen,” Dammrich says. Showgoers and exhibitors can go to the website ( and prepay for a space at any of the parking locations and get directions from where they’re staying to the lot. Maps at the website show 11 water taxi and 13 shuttle bus stops scattered around downtown Miami so people can get to the show from their hotels.

Water taxis will shuttle show-goers between the NMMA venue on Virginia Key and Yachts Miami Beach. The taxis will pick up and drop off passengers at a dock on Purdy Avenue near the east end of the Venetian Causeway bridge in Miami Beach and at a dock at the NMMA show site on Virginia Key. At the Yachts Miami Beach end, a bus will shuttle passengers between the Purdy Avenue dock and Collins Avenue.

Miami International Boat Show manager Cathy Rick-Joule says two of three lanes on the east and westbound sides of Rickenbacker Causeway will be dedicated to show traffic; the third lane on each side will be for through traffic between Key Biscayne and Miami.

Parking on Virginia Key is limited, so organizers are recommending that show-goers reserve parking at one of the Miami lots, park there and shuttle to the show.

The Virginia Key facility will be “state-of-the art,” Dammrich says. Some of the tents will be air-conditioned. They will have plastic windows along the waterfront side, cell towers for mobile phone service and fiber-optic networks for exhibitors’ online needs.

Yachts Miami Beach and the NMMA show will have VIP tents with food, drink and lounges for high-end clients, and Virginia Key will have restaurants for everyone else to dine: the Havana Club and Cigar Bar, for Cuban food lovers; the Roast Pig, specializing in pork dishes; a beer garden; the Atlantica fish house and seafood restaurant; a Kid’s Corner for children; concession stands; and at the Rickenbacker Marina next door, the Rusty Pelican Restaurant and Whiskey Joe’s Bar and Grill.

Dammrich says cooperation among the MIASF, Show Management, the NMMA and the city of Miami made the NMMA show’s move from Miami Beach to Virginia Key possible.

“Our industry is an ecosystem, and when we’re all working together things usually turn out pretty good,” he says.

This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue.



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