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NMMA moves forward on new Miami site after vote

The Miami International Boat Show got good news Thursday as Miami commissioners voted to spend as much as $16 million during the next year to upgrade the grounds around the Miami Marine Stadium in preparation for the show in 2016.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a license allowing the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the show’s owner, to hold the event there, NMMA president Thom Dammrich told Trade Only Today. The association will pay the city $1.1 million a year in rent and half of the concessions and parking sales.

“This is the most exciting thing to happen to the Miami boat show in 75 years — and 2016 will be its 75th anniversary,” Dammrich said. “It’s going to be a completely different show. It’s a dramatically different venue, so it’s going to be a different show.”

The planned improvements will not be made to the stadium, Dammrich clarified, but to the grounds known as the Miami Marine Stadium Park. “There will be boats on the water near the stadium, but the stadium itself is not part of the boat show. It’s a very small footprint within the whole Miami Stadium Park.”

Commissioners voted to authorize a bond issue to pay for improvements to a 15-acre area outside the waterfront stadium, including seven undeveloped acres to the east of the shuttered venue that will be paved, lined with utilities and covered with artificial turf.

“We’ve got a footprint that will allow us — especially with the in-water space, which is unlimited — more space for boats and accessories than we had before,” Dammrich said.

Commissioners voted unanimously on the boat show deal and stadium grounds upgrades despite criticisms from the village of Key Biscayne that the boat show agreement was “rushed,” according to some local news reports.

Some also noted that the deal negotiated with the NMMA has no length and could potentially leave the city to finance a $16 million facility without an anchor tenant.

“We’ve been talking with officials in Key Biscayne,” Dammrich said. “They’re concerned about traffic on the Rickenbacker Causeway, but they also do a major tennis tournament that draws about 80,000 people. This is about the same thing. We’re going to try and transport people by bus and water taxi and do everything we can to minimize the impact.”

The open tolling will prevent backups on the causeway and ample parking will minimize traffic caused by those looking for spaces by giving people “a place to go,” Dammrich said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a major problem, but we want the support of Key Biscayne and will work with them to make sure they’re delighted with and supportive of the boat show, as well.”

The plan to move the Miami show to the Marine Stadium grounds has taken turns since it was initially announced recently. Just one week after a big public announcement with the non-profit group Friends of Miami Marine Stadium — fronted by pop star Gloria Estefan — the deal crumbled. City officials said they’d rather pursue their own plan, even if it meant spending millions in public dollars.

The NMMA maintained that the scuttled $121 million deal that would have transferred the stadium — which has remained in disrepair since Hurricane Andrew tore through in 1992 — to the non-profit group would not affect the show coming to the stadium in 2016 and 2017 while the Miami Beach Convention Center is being renovated.

Michele Goldsmith, global marketing manager and key accounts sales manager for Power Products LLC’s marine division, said the NMMA has done a great job of representing the industry to stakeholders in Miami throughout the process.

“I think it could be a phenomenal venue for us if everything comes to fruition,” Goldsmith told Trade Only. “There are opportunities in water, opportunities on land and easy parking right there. I think it could consolidate us into one area and make it a lot easier for attendees to navigate the whole show.”

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