Miami-Dade County

Miami International Boat Show touts success as ‘post mortem’ begins

Throngs of boating enthusiasts take in the 75th Miami International Boat Show at its new location, the Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin on Virginia Key, on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016.
Throngs of boating enthusiasts take in the 75th Miami International Boat Show at its new location, the Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin on Virginia Key, on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Miami Herald Staff

After an intense five-day weekend of boating and business, the Miami International Boat Show is calling its first event at the Marine Stadium a “resounding success.”

Executives with the National Marine Manufacturers Association said Tuesday that attendance topped 100,000 visitors and was up 4 percent from last year at the Miami Beach Convention Center, despite inclement weather on Monday. In a statement, NMMA president Thom Dammrich said, “This year’s show was the start of what we hope to be a long, successful run at Marine Stadium Park and Basin.”

This year’s show was the start of what we hope to be a long, successful run at Marine Stadium Park and Basin

Thom Dammrich, National Marine Manufacturers Association president

But whether the show will return next year won’t be known for weeks, and perhaps months.

Miami commissioners have requested a “post mortem” to review the results and decide whether they’re pleased with a trade show that is essentially operating on a year-to-year license. County regulators also have to review an environmental permit.

Meanwhile, the Village of Key Biscayne is still pursuing a lawsuit that argues the city of Miami unlawfully constructed a projected $24 million exhibit space on Virginia Key to host the Boat Show. City lawyers are preparing for a March 29 hearing on whether to dismiss the case.

“We need to let the dust settle and really evaluate what happened,” said Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, who represents Virginia Key.

At first glance, Boat Show executives say they’re pleased with the results of an event that included 1,200 boats on display throughout an area three-quarters of a mile long. They recorded 100,279 visitors and say the show exceeded expectations, filling more than 200,000 hotel beds.

And, despite expectations that Miami and the Rickenbacker Causeway would be overloaded with traffic, the NMMA said Monday that the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation reported 20,000 additional cars traversed the causeway last weekend when compared to the same weekend in 2015 — about 4,000 more a day. They believe theirtraffic plan avoided a dreaded carmaggaedon, with roughly 80,000 attendees using water taxis and shuttle buses to get to the stadium.

We need to let the dust settle and really evaluate what happened

Miami Commissioner Ken Russell

But critics, in particular the Village of Key Biscayne, say the event only bolstered their arguments against the Boat Show’s presence off the Rickenbacker Causeway. Village Mayor Mayra Peña Lindsay said Tuesday that she received numerous complaints about traffic and the wait times for water taxis, and the number of boats being test-driven in the bay. Lindsay also believes it’s suspicious that a manatee was killed over the weekend near Dodge Island, likely by a boat propeller.

County regulators and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission authorities say there’s no evidence the manatee’s death had anything to do with the Boat Show, but Miami-Dade’s Division of Environmental Resources Management isn’t yet ruling that possibility out.

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