The Oct. 16 editorial FIU expansion on the proposed exemption that would allow Florida International University to eventually expand onto the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds leaves out a key fact that the community and 600,000 Youth Fair-goers need to know: Even if the referendum passes, The Youth Fair will remain at our home in Tamiami Park for many years to come.
The Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition, a non-government, private non-profit charity that exists to promote education and agriculture and provide scholarships and prizes to deserving students, has remained neutral on the ballot question.
If the referendum passes, it would remove a legal hurdle that prevents FIU from ever using the public park land. Contrary to what many people have come to believe, it will not force a relocation of the Youth Fair. Relocation is governed by our lease with Miami-Dade County, which outlines the steps required for the county to terminate the agreement prior to 2085.
There are three key provisions:
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- The county must find an alternative site equal to or better than the Fairgrounds in all respects, and the site must be acceptable to the Youth Fair. No such site has been found.
- It must provide the funding to reimburse the Youth Fair for the $90 million-plus in infrastructure the Fair has invested at the Fairgrounds and other county facilities, and pay to make a new site ready for development, plus the moving costs. A study jointly commissioned and funded by the county, FIU and the Youth Fair pegged the cost at $230 million, plus the cost of land, if any. The referendum states the county will not pay those costs, and FIU has stated it will raise the funds.
- Once the first two items are in place, the county must give the Youth Fair three years’ notice.
If the referendum is approved, relocation is still years away. That fact has been lost in FIU’s massive and expensive campaign to promote the ballot item. The 600,000 Youth Fair guests, the more than 315,000 guests who come to the other 70 Fair Exposition events the Youth Fair hosts throughout the year, our hundreds of volunteers, exhibitors, vendors, concessionaires and other fans of the Youth Fair need to be reassured that The Youth Fair is not going anywhere anytime soon, and if we ever do relocate, it will be to a better, upgraded, accessible, and modern location.
Bob Hohenstein, president and CEO, Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition, Miami