Downtown Miami

Miami delays contract for Formula One race, wants more input from downtown residents

Formula One is negotiating with Miami to bring a series of Grand Prix races — like this one in Austria — to the city’s downtown. The earliest Miami race would be in 2020. A planned city and county trip to see a Grand Prix in Singapore has hit some controversy.
Formula One is negotiating with Miami to bring a series of Grand Prix races — like this one in Austria — to the city’s downtown. The earliest Miami race would be in 2020. A planned city and county trip to see a Grand Prix in Singapore has hit some controversy. Getty Images

While Miami commissioners were paving the way for a Major League Soccer team to make its home here, the city was delaying work on a plan to bring Formula One racing to its waterfront.

Miami administrators have delayed a discussion on a contract to bring a Formula One Grand Prix race to downtown, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez confirmed Wednesday. The discussion, originally scheduled for July 26, will now be delayed until after the City Commission’s August recess in order to get more input from downtown residents.

City Manager Emilio Gonzalez said discussions with Formula One will continue. He said no one from the racing circuit has told him the delay would derail plans to hold the Grand Prix in Miami in October 2019.

“We want to make sure we do this right,” he said Wednesday. “It’s a big event.”

Miami commissioners unanimously authorized Gonzalez to negotiate a contract with Formula One in early May. The contract would bring the three-day event to downtown every fall for the next ten years. The original plan for the race ran from Biscayne Boulevard in front of AmericanAirlines Arena over to PortMiami and back. In a revised track plan sent to the Miami Herald by the city, the track wraps around Bayfront Park, including a road adjacent to the water, runs up Biscayne Boulevard and loops around PortMiami.

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A draft of the proposed track configuration provided by the City of Miami. This is not necessarily the final design.

Many downtown and Port Miami residents have expressed concerns about the proposal. They complained about potential road closures, traffic problems and noise that the event could contribute, both during the race and for months preceding it. Residents remarked that some businesses could not open with all the construction going on.

“The response [the city] always gives is, ‘we’re going to always fix it and return it to where the city likes it again,’” said Ken Schwart, a resident of 50 Biscayne. “Why do we want to live through months of inconvenience to just get back to where we were? It’s crazy.”

Sam Dubbin, an attorney who represents 11 downtown residents, filed a cease-and-desist letter in June demanding the city stop negotiations with Formula One and end massive events like Rolling Loud and Ultra. He suggested he would be prepared to sue if the commission and Bayfront Park Management Trust did not suspend the events.

A copy of a tentative agreement for the Formula One Grand Prix, negotiated by the city manager and Formula One, called for a ten-year deal, which would start in October 2019. The contract also has an option for a ten-year extension, which would extend the race until 2038.

The agreement also called for an annual “Fan Fest,” the first of which would take place Oct. 17-21 this year.

The race itself would take place between Oct. 5 and Nov. 15 every year. The city could not give permission to others to use the premises between those dates without permission from Formula One. According to the contract, the city would also provide and pay for all the safety and security personnel for the event.

“The city would be undertaking a massive commitment of financial and public safety resources without any limitations,” Dubbin said. “You’re profoundly changing people’s lives in ways no one in the city is admitting to.”

In another piece of legislation sponsored by Commissioner Joe Carollo, the city is asking the Florida Legislature to make funding available for the event.

“The Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix race will bring thousands of race fans to South Florida, which, for international tourists, can easily become part of a much larger visit to the rest of Florida and its great attractions,” the resolution states. “The Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix can only help to enhance the international destination status of the State of Florida as a whole through participation in this global event.”

The deal would give Formula One permission to make preparations in the area for six months leading up to the event rent free. Formula One would have to construct barriers along the track capable of withstanding the impact of a race car moving at speeds of over 200 miles per hour. The roads would also have to be repaved to Formula One standards from around Bayfront Park to Port Miami.

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