Miami was abuzz about the old and the new

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Chatter about the obvious success of the 2015 Progressive Miami International Boat Show might have actually taken a backseat to talk about the 2016 show and its unprecedented move to a new site.

In its swan song at the Miami Beach Convention Center site, some 94,980 visitors poured into the show there, while an additional 19,279 show-goers attended Strictly Sail Miami at Bayside. Among notable show highlights was the significant increase in boat exhibit space this year. New models were unveiled by many major builders, perhaps the highest number of new designs since the Great Recession. It sent a loud message of confidence in the industry’s continued growth.

Confidence was also evident in the positive talk about the show moving to the Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin on Virginia Key one year from now. Most agreed it will be an undertaking of huge proportion. But, with rare exceptions, exhibitors like the idea and voiced little doubt that the NMMA’s show team will pull it off.

“We think it’s great that the show will now be at the water’s edge,” said Dave Wallace of Scout Boats at the unveiling of their new 420 LXF Luxury Sportfisher. “It will give us the opportunity to have our larger boats in the water together with our smaller models inside. We’re already discussing our plans.”

Wallace hit on one of the top benefits of the show’s relocation — having inside and outside dry-land exhibit space adjacent to the in-water displays. Initial site plans for the basin, which is the size of the Washington Mall, includes all-new customized in-water docks for 700 boats of virtually unlimited size because of the deep water in the basin.

Overlooking the in-water docks will be acres of interconnected tents, albeit it’s hard to call these structures “tents.” They will, in fact, be larger versions of the air-conditioned clear-span event structures that are used by many boat shows including the one to supplement the space at the Convention Center this year.

“When we heard we’d been moved out of the Convention Center to a tent this year,” said Reed Austin, national sales manager for Edson International, “our thoughts were ‘Good grief, a tent!’ But now that we’re here we can honestly say it’s very well done and we’re very satisfied.”

The City of Miami will be investing $16 million to create a new “Flex Park” on the site. Miami mayor Tomas Regalado, along with city commissioners and administrators, started the project with a groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 10.

The site will be transformed into a 15-acre recreational space, one of the largest city park developments within the last five years. The site development includes utility infrastructure development, storm water management and Flex Park field development.

Attendees at this year’s show couldn’t miss the promotion of the move. It included large signage with full color renderings of the new show placed all around the Convention Center as well as handouts. And while I was participating in the industry’s Discover Boating Affordability Exhibit, I found many visitors asking questions and liking what they were seeing in the promotions — a good sign for next year.

“With the move, we’ll be marking the show’s 75th anniversary next year,” said Cathy Rick-Joule, NMMA’s vice president and manager of the Miami show, told me Monday night at closing. And certainly we’ve had great success for many of those years here in the convention center.

“But we are truly excited about what we will introduce to the industry and the public next year in our new location,” she continued. “We’ll be able to do a lot of things differently and better because of the flexible site and, of course, the in-water space.”

One thing won’t change — the Strictly Sail Miami portion of the show will not be moving to Virginia Key. It will continue its successful run downtown at the famous Miamarina at Bayside.


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