After flying to Paris to tout a commercial air show his administration planned for the Everglades, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has vetoed the idea in favor of trying again to put it in Homestead.
Gimenez said Thursday that he has concluded a remote county airstrip can’t be converted into a temporary expo space for the western version of the Paris Air Show. Environmentalists howled at the idea of bringing 150,000 people to the old Jetport site, given its location deep within the Everglades. Gimenez did not mention environmental concerns when explaining the shift, but said logistics were the problem.
“You really can’t do a Paris Air Show there, in the Everglades,” Gimenez said during a meeting with the Miami Herald Editorial Board. “You need this huge space. We couldn’t even hold the Paris Air Show at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The only place you can really have it is at the Homestead air base.”
Laura Reynolds, director of the Tropical Audubon Society, said in a statement that “it is wonderful to see Miami-Dade County responding to the wishes of its citizens. I hope to see more of that in the near future as we face the effects of sea-level rise due to climate change.”
Gimenez’s new course on the air show, first reported by Fox News Latino’s Miami office, comes weeks after he led a local delegation to the Paris show as part of a trade mission to France. Unlike a civilian air show focused on aerial aerobatics, a commercial show pairs jet makers and other sellers in the aviation industry with major buyers, including military officials.
Miami-Dade had been trying for years to launch a Western Hemisphere version of the Paris show at the Homestead base, but the Pentagon nixed the idea in 2011 because it didn’t want commercial activities on military property. Joshua Salpeter, legislative director for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said he wasn’t aware of a new try for Homestead, which he described as a firm no-go from military brass when the Republican congresswoman was pushing for it.
“They were explicit in their denial,” Salpeter said. “We pushed that about as hard as we could. We got nowhere.”
With Homestead seemingly off the table four years ago, Miami-Dade shifted its attention to the old Jetport site. Once slated to be the world’s largest airport, the remote site was the target of an epic environmental battle in the 1970s. Conservationists won, and Miami-Dade ended up establishing a small airport there. The Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport sits about 50 miles west of downtown Miami, and most of it falls within Collier County.
Gimenez was featured in a brochure touting a potential Miami air show at the Dade-Collier site when he led a Miami-Dade delegation to the Paris Air Show in 2013. No brochure was made for the 2015 show, but the Gimenez administration was moving quickly to determine whether Dade-Collier could work for an air show.
Internal documents from his aviation and economic-development teams show active planning throughout 2014 and 2015 for an air show to be held at Dade-Collier in January 2017. The next step would have been a formal recommendation from the mayor to county commissioners to proceed with a show.
Gimenez said on Thursday that he thought a fresh approach with military officials could revive the idea for a Homestead show. He also noted the 2016 presidential election would mean new senior leadership at the Pentagon — including the possibility of a president from Miami-Dade should Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio take the White House.