Pressure on for a Super Bowl Boat Show

Miami-Dade’s mayor signals his support for holding both big events on the same weekend, while the county’s tourism director does not.

12/18/2012 4:34 PM

12/19/2012 6:26 AM

Miami-Dade’s tourism bureau faces more pressure to endorse holding the 2016 Super Bowl during the Miami International Boat Show and drop objections that there aren’t enough hotel rooms in the Miami area to handle both events.

On Tuesday the mayor of Miami-Dade County, which helps fund the bureau, all but endorsed holding both events on the same weekend if the National Football League opts to move the championship game to President’s Day Weekend, the Boat Show’s home for decades.

“We can hold two parties at once,’’ Mayor Carlos Gimenez said during a County Commission discussion on pursuing the Super Bowl.

The Miami Dolphins and the team’s backers on the South Florida Super Bowl organizing committee contend downtown Miami is capable of holding Super Bowl during Boat Show, which is primarily based at the Miami Beach Convention Center. On Tuesday, the committee picked a downtown Miami hotel to announce new celebrity spokesmen for the region’s Super Bowl bid: Dolphin greats Bob Griese, Dan Marino and Jason Taylor.

“I think every Super Bowl, personally, should be in South Florida,’’ Marino said from the stage at the Intercontinental Miami hotel on downtown’s waterfront. “I’ve been telling people that for years.”

South Florida is competing against San Francisco for 2016, and the loser will take on Houston for the 2017 Super Bowl. Though South Florida has already hosted a record 10 Super Bowls, the latest campaign for the big game has brought new tensions.

For the first time, Broward and Miami-Dade were required to make separate presentations to the Super Bowl group, which intends to pick one “urban core” to be the hub for pre-game activities. Meanwhile, team executives are still mulling another push for tax dollars to renovate Sun Life Stadium, improvements NFL executives have said would help South Florida’s Super Bowl bid.

Broward’s tourism director, Nicki Grossman, drove from Fort Lauderdale to Miami for the Super Bowl committee’s first public event for the 2016 bid. The presentation included unveiling the group’s new logo featuring palm trees and the Roman numerals of the Super Bowls held in the Dolphins’ home stadium since 1968.

In past years, the Host Committee has held bid events at Sun Life Stadium. Rodney Barreto, a partner in one of Miami-Dade’s top lobby firms and long-time chair of the Super Bowl committee, said picking the Intercontinental for the unveiling wasn’t a sign that Miami leads Fort Lauderdale in the competition. “We have not made a decision,” he said. “We feel this is neutral territory.”

William Talbert, president of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, attended the event but declined to talk to The Miami Herald about the Boat Show issue afterward. But in comments to television reporters Tuesday, he seemed to back off a statement last month that “it’s not physically possible in Miami to host Super Bowl during the President’s Day weekend.” Talbert told WSVN at the Intercontinental: “To the extent that we can secure sufficient hotel rooms, it works.”

With NFL owners pushing the players’ union for an extended season, the league has begun asking cities to prepare for a Super Bowl held later than usual. In 2010 and 2011, the NFL requested that cities bid on three potential weekends for future Super Bowls, including President’s Day. But given the Boat Show conflict, South Florida declined and instead offered Super Bowl proposals for the other two weekends. South Florida lost out both times.

This time around, only Talbert has voiced concerns about President’s Day weekend while the other major Super Bowl players are pushing to bid for all three weekends in 2016. They say the stakes are especially high since the 2016 Super Bowl is the 50th anniversary of the game.

Grossman is urging a Fort Lauderdale-based Super Bowl if Miami-Dade can’t handle it, while Barreto is floating the idea of docking cruise ships on the Miami waterfront to house overflow from Super Bowl and Boat Show.

The issue is only hypothetical now, since the NFL has not yet scheduled a Super Bowl on President’s Day Weekend. But it’s become enough of a concern that Barreto received tacit endorsements for his position when he and Dolphins CEO Mike Dee went before the Miami-Dade County Commission after Tuesday’s press event.

“I want to be real clear that this community is a can-do community,’’ said Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz. “I believe it can be done. I believe we can handle both things at the same time.”

So far, the Boat Show has refused to move to another weekend in 2016, saying a switch would cost it visitors and exhibitor dollars. Some Boat Show events take place in downtown Miami, too, making the four-day holiday stretch one of the busiest one the tourism calendar each year.

The Visitors Bureau is a non-profit with its own independent board, but it relies on taxes from Miami Beach and taxes charged to hotel restaurants in Miami-Dade for about 85 percent of its $23 million annual budget.

Mayor Gimenez said Miami-Dade faces some “heavy lifting” for the 2016 bid, but that the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl is too important to not pursue fully. “You have this community behind you,’’ Gimenez told Barreto and Dee. “We know how to host two parties at a time. We’re going to do that.”

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