Even though a Formula One Grand Prix won’t run in downtown Miami until 2020, organizers are planning a festival for racing fans in October — a four-day event to drum up enthusiasm for the race that could include a demonstration track where cars would roar down a stretch of Biscayne Boulevard.
But even before organizers throw the fan festival or the city approves a contract for Formula One to use Bayfront Park for a race, five city employees and three county police administrators are already set to travel 10,538 miles for some publicly funded research into how to stage a Grand Prix.
The head of the city’s special events office and high-ranking members of the police and fire departments will fly to Southeast Asia in mid-September to witness the Singapore Grand Prix.
Details of the fan festival and Singapore trip emerged from public records requested by angry downtown residents who want the city to stop holding large-scale events in Bayfront Park. Emails show Formula One invited five city and seven Miami-Dade officials to Singapore “to observe and assess the security, safety, and the logistical requirements” for holding such an event in a city.
The county confirmed that three Miami-Dade police administrators will be making the trip. A police spokesman said their travel would be funded by PortMiami, a county agency. A port spokeswoman said only three police administrators connected to the port’s security operation were making the trip, which has a budget of about $10,000. The county’s Fire Department, which was invited to send representatives on the trip, did not respond to a request for information on Friday. The port spokeswoman, Andria Muniz-Amador, said no fire personnel were listed as attendees.
Miami city spokesman Eugene Ramirez confirmed that five city officials would head to Singapore in a few weeks.
“Certain members of the administration are traveling to the Formula One event in Singapore in preparation for the proposed Miami event, including first-responder impact,” he said. “The in-person experience can help to better inform the commission when the proposed agreement goes before it.”
The cost of travel for film and cultural events administrator Vicente Betancourt, Deputy Police Chief Ron Papier and Lt. Gilberto Gomez totals about $19,700, according to documents requested by the Miami Herald. On Friday, the city’s fire department did not immediately provide information on their employees’ budgets for the trip.
Promoters have been planning a Formula One fan event in Bayfront Park for Oct. 17-21. Biscayne Boulevard from Southeast First Street to Northeast Fifth Street could be closed to set up a track for drivers to show off Formula One cars, doing turns and revving engines in an event called “F1 Live.” The cars would not race and would travel below race speeds.
The F1 Live portion of the festival still requires approval from PortMiami and the Florida Department of Transportation.
“The F1 Live Route is not final,” said Ramirez.
A group of downtown residents who have become increasingly vocal with their opposition to large-scale events in Bayfront Park are frustrated with plans for a fan festival, particularly the potential for Formula One vehicles to be driven on Biscayne, because of the noise the cars would make.
“It appears that no one including Downtown Neighbors Alliance was notified of the city’s decision for this demonstration,” said Kenneth Schwartz, resident of the 50 Biscayne condo tower. “We don’t know what their objectives are as there has been no dialogue with downtown residents.”
Emails from the public records show several residents wrote to their elected officials to complain about the noise and traffic that come with big events in Bayfront Park, including Ultra Music Festival.
“I cannot stand yet another event that will cause noise, traffic and possibly more problems than we already have in this area,” Brickell resident Carol Press wrote in an email to Commissioner Keon Hardemon. “It has come to a point that I am considering moving away!”
A few people expressed support for a Grand Prix. One even criticized Mayor Francis Suarez after the vote on an agreement, originally scheduled for July 26, was deferred until later this year.
“What a massive failure on your behalf for not approving the F1 race in Miami!” wrote Brett Rosenberg, a root canal therapy specialist based in Jupiter. “If you are truly looking to make Miami an international trend-setter you would have unequivocally given carte blanche to the race promoters.”
The possibility of a Formula One race adds another wrinkle to the debate over the use of Bayfront Park. Downtown dwellers are pressuring the city to limit the number of events that force closure of the waterfront green space; residents say they want to enjoy the park more often. The number of days the park is closed has more than tripled from 35 in 2011 to 115 in 2017.
In Miami’s halls of power, the issue is framed by a political tussle between Commissioners Ken Russell and Joe Carollo, who have different ideas about who should manage Bayfront Park. Either way, the commission will face two significant decisions in the coming months. A contract for Ultra Music Festival to continue staging a three-day electronic music dance festival is expected to go before the commission in September, and the Formula One deal could face a vote in October.
Miami Herald staff writer Douglas Hanks contributed to this report.