One of the biggest changes in the Miami International Boat Show’s 75-year history takes place this year, as the show moves from Miami Beach to the Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin on Virginia Key.
The move has been the subject of plenty of discussion and controversy, with the village of Key Biscayne and others objecting to the new location, with multiple lawsuits being filed. (See related story.)
Boating Industry talked to Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which produces the show, about the current status of show preparations, benefits of the new location and more.
There’s been a lot of back and forth lately, from an apparent settlement between Miami and Key Biscayne, then back to the courts again. Is there any reason attendees and exhibitors should be concerned about your ability to put on the show this year?
Dammrich: None whatsoever. We said 10 months ago that there was going to be a lot of noise and this is just noise. It is having absolutely no effect on the work being done on the flex park, on our work being done to prepare for the show. It will have no effect on our ability to produce the show.
It’s political and legal maneuvering by the village of Key Biscayne. Our lawyers have said they don’t believe we have anything to worry about, just keep going.
From the show’s viewpoint, what’s the optimal solution to this?
Dammrich: The differences between Miami and Key Biscayne go back a long, long time. This is one of many, many, many issues between the village and the city. It’s part of a much bigger … relationship between these two entities. Would we like to see them work things out so everybody was living harmoniously? Of course we would.
It was Key Biscayne that pulled out of mediation. I believe the city of Miami has been willing all along to work with the village of Key Biscayne. If this doesn’t get resolved between the village and the city, the show will go on and they’ll continue to fight as they have for many, many years.
So the work is on schedule and you feel confident everything will be ready to go come show time?
Dammrich: Yes. The first part of the park – the Western part of the park – is supposed to be turned over to us on December 1 and we’ll start constructing … there in early December. The other half of the park will be turned over to us January 1.
We have weekly meetings with the city on construction progress. We have weekly meetings with the site supervisors overseeing construction. We’re in constant communication on all of the things that are needed to prepare for the show. We have contracts with all of the vendors we need to produce the show. Bellingham is well along on producing all of the floats that we’re going to need to build the temporary marina.
It’s business as usual for us, besides all the noise and rumors.
I’m glad you brought up Bellingham. There have been some concerns about the environmental impact of the temporary docks based on earlier unaffiliated shows in Miami. How is the show addressing that? (See related story)
Dammrich: What was used in other shows was unencapsulated foam floatation and that foam breaks off, and it doesn’t biodegrade and it floats around in the water and it’s eaten by animals and it’s bad for the environment. What we’ll be using at the basin at Miami Marine Stadium Park … all of our floats are encapsulated foam. They are encapsulated in a hard plastic case, so there is no environmental impact.
What are the some of the advantages Miami Marine Stadium is going to offer for the show as opposed to being out on Miami Beach?
Dammrich: The No. 1 complaint about the show from consumers and exhibitors has always been traffic and parking. We are investing a lot of money in a very comprehensive traffic management and parking plan … to get people to and from the show.
We have over 4,000 parking spaces on Virginia Key adjacent to the show. We’ve got 10,000 more parking spaces in or near downtown Miami … and we’ll be offering free shuttle buses from each of those parking locations to the front door of the show as well as water taxis from the American Airlines Arena and Bayside and other locations directly to the front door of the show.[Strictly Sail] has decided to stay at Bayside, but again we’ll be offering water taxi service between the two shows. It’s a 15-minute water taxi ride between the shows.
It is going to be a boat show on an island paradise. It is the most spectacular location for a boat show that you will find anywhere in the world, with everything all in one place.
Building a show from scratch like this is not an opportunity many show producers have, especially with a show this big. We’re going to be offering food service concessions that are nothing like you’ve ever seen at any boat show in terms of quality and variety. It’s going to be a boat show with a very sizable party atmosphere.
When you stand on the shoreline or out where the docks are going to be, the view of the downtown Miami skyline is spectacular. People are going to be in the boating mood when they are at this boat show. It is going to be a great selling environment.
Just to make sure this is clear, you’re envisioning Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin as the new permanent home of the show?
Dammrich: Yes, we are. The fact of the matter is … the Miami Beach Convention Center, we may find some use for that going forward, but right now this is going to be the home of the show. The convention center may become a satellite home for something, but we don’t know yet. We’ve got two or three years to figure that out.
What made this location the right place to host the show?
Dammrich: Well, there was no other place. Mayor [Mayra Pena] Lindsay in Key Biscayne says, "Why don’t you do it in Marlins Park?" Well, we looked at Marlins Park and we could accommodate about half the show. Any other locations that we used would have required the show to be broken up amongst two or three other locations. And I don’t mean broken up like it was where we have almost everything in the convention center and we had boats over at Sea Isle. It would have been boats in one location, accessories in one location, engines in one location, in-water boats at another location.
There simply was no other venue that could accommodate the show. The city of Miami wanted to host the show and they encouraged us to host it at Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin. In fact, the boat show has been described as lighting in a bottle to get the renovation of Miami Marine Stadium finally moving forward.
We’re going to bring so much attention to Miami Marine Stadium Park that it’s going to help move forward the renovation of the stadium, which will return an iconic landmark back to use for the residents of Miami-Dade County.
Is it your hope as that happens in the future that the show will be able to incorporate the stadium into the show?
Dammrich: We’ve been so busy at this point getting ready for this show that we haven’t had time to spend a whole lot of time thinking about that, but if there was a way to include entertainment or a show at the stadium, that would be terrific.
It’s not something we’ve spent a lot of time on at this point because it’s not going to be available for a few years.