NMMA addresses concerns about new Miami show site

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Miami International Boat Show organizers say several concerns raised by the Village of Key Biscayne regarding a plan to bring the show to Miami Marine Stadium in 2016 are already being addressed.

“I won’t disagree that with any event we produce, there’s always challenges, and even more so when we’re working with properties on the water,” show manager Cathy Rick-Joule told Trade Only Today. “There are a whole different level of approvals needed.”

The project has the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which owns and produces the Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show, working with city, county and village officials while hashing out plans to move the show to the stadium, which has languished since Hurricane Andrew destroyed it more than 20 years ago.

The stadium is on 82-acre Virginia Key, which is within city limits. The property belongs to the city of Miami and is maintained by the Miami Parks and Recreation Department, but the responsibility is shared in part with the Virginia Key Beach Trust, which manages the historic portion of the beach front and oversees the preservation and future development of Virginia Key Beach, according to the city’s parks and recreation website. It is located in Biscayne Bay, north of Key Biscayne, which has several preserves and environmental protections in place.

Several issues raised in a report by the Key Biscayne Islander News have been addressed as plans are being hashed out, Rick-Joule said. For example, the show agreed to walk away from a piece of land that had some environmental impact from the county’s perspective, Rick-Joule said.

The city has ordered a traffic study during the 2015 show to “be proactive in trying to understand the impact,” she said. “We are working together on how to minimize that.”

Key Biscayne has asked that most of the heavy-equipment traffic happen during overnight or off-peak hours. “That’s something we do already,” Rick-Joule said.

“We have also met with all the tenants of Virginia Key … on that campus and they have all 100 percent agreed they want to work with us and be part of the footprint,” she said. We believe we can be good neighbors.”

Parking was another concern raised by the article, which appeared in print earlier this month, but Rick-Joule said the parking situation is a positive in moving the show to the marine stadium.

“There’s plentiful parking between Virginia Key and Key Biscayne,” she said, adding that organizers have approached the county with a proposal to use Cramden Park lots. “I think we’re going to get a favorable response there.”

The endeavor has been at the center of regional news since November, when the NMMA announced plans with the Friends of Miami Marine Stadium to restore the structure and bring the show there in 2016 and 2017 as the Miami Beach Convention Center undergoes renovations. Pop icon Gloria Estefan, who has served as the voice of the nonprofit group, was at a press event announcing an agreement for the city to turn the property over to the group.

That deal crumbled shortly afterward as details of the $121 million plan came under scrutiny.

A team of private partners included a financier who had just filed for personal bankruptcy. Civic groups and the village of Key Biscayne had raised concerns about a proposed commercial complex with a 125,000-square-foot expo center and a 280-slip dry-dock storage facility.

Just weeks after lending her name to the group’s effort, Estefan blasted the original plan for a lack of transparency.

NMMA president Thom Dammrich told Trade Only Today at the time that the botched plan won’t change the boat show’s arrival at the venue in 2016 and 2017; it only means that the NMMA will have a different landlord.

Rick-Joule still isn’t sure how the stadium renovations will be funded.

“How the city of Miami is going to fund the renovations to provide a rentable space as a tenant, that’s up to the city,” Rick-Joule said. “We know what we expect and they understand what we need. I would imagine they’re going to do some of the infrastructure internally.”

Organizers are surveying show exhibitors to learn how they would like to see the site unfold — whether they’d like more land or in-water displays, covered tents or open-air sites, air conditioning and how they’d like to see products grouped, Rick-Joule said.

Meanwhile, they will continue to work with the city and other affected entities.

“We’re working as best we can to minimize any negativity on them. That’s how we roll,” Rick-Joule said “That’s always how we do things when we look at any venue or city for a boat show.”

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