Key Biscayne

Risk or Reward? Medley company bets on Marine Stadium shows

A rendering of the 2016 Miami International Boat Show at Miami Marine Stadium.
A rendering of the 2016 Miami International Boat Show at Miami Marine Stadium. Courtesy

In creating an $18 million event space and park outside Marine Stadium, Miami officials have consistently said they have no long-term plan on the site and downplayed concerns that they’ll use it to host a slew of high-traffic events.

But a pending, exclusive 10-year contract with a Medley company that makes and erects custom tents and temporary structures for large events is raising questions about whether that’s all lip service.

On Thursday, Miami commissioners are poised to vote on the deal with Eventstar, which would receive exclusive rights to erect tents for all events on the city’s utility-lined lawn. The contract is one of many steps the city is taking to host the Miami International Boat Show in February 2016 and beyond.

As part of the arrangement, Eventstar would install $350,000 in infrastructure on the site, according to a draft agreement with the city.

Deputy City Manager Alice Bravo says the 10-year term and six-figure investment are necessary because the company normally keeps its massive tents strapped down by pounding 42-inch nails into the ground. That wasn’t acceptable in the loose soil on Virginia Key nor on the concrete that will line the event space, she said, so Eventstar will install anchors in the ground on its own dime.

With such a hefty investment, Bravo said the company wanted exclusive access over a long period, even though the contract states that there’s no guarantee any other events will be held at the site after the 2016 Boat Show, which is operating on a year-to-year license agreement.

“It’s all really out of practical concerns that need to be addressed,” she said. “They’re taking the risk.”

Critics of the city’s plans at Marine Stadium believe the pending agreement with Evenstar is yet another sign that Miami expects to host major events outside the stadium, which sits along the one road in and out of Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. Mayra Lindsay, the mayor of Key Biscayne, which is suing the city and the Boat Show’s parent company, said the proposed contract “further supports our concerns that this is going to be a convention center without parking.”

“I find it hard to believe a company like Eventstar would make a $300,000 investment without some kind of projection about how it will be used, and that it’s worth their investment,” she said.

A message left at Eventstar’s Medley offices Wednesday was not returned. Bravo said the company’s contract with the Boat Show would be negotiated directly with the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, which owns the show.

Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, whose district includes Virginia Key, said Wednesday that he is “very upset” by the proposed Eventstar contract. Sarnoff has advocated keeping the area — which will have the infrastructure to host major events but will also be lined with turf and converted to playing fields during down times — as a park for most the year.

“That is the foundation for an out of control event space,” said Sarnoff, adding that the contract “does nothing more than promote further events.”

The contract with Eventstar is just one of nearly a dozen items on Thursday’s agenda related to Marine Stadium that show just how sprawling the Boat Show’s operations will be. The National Marine Manufacturers Association also stands to receive access to Virginia Key Beach Park for parking, and the Miami Rowing Club, Bayside Seafood and Rusty Pelican restaurants for concessions. The Rickenbacker Marina would also receive $130,000 and 600 tickets to the Boat Show in exchange for allowing the Boat Show to take over the premises for 40 days.

“The footprint is massive,” said Lindsay.

The city is also amending the license agreement with the Boat Show to eliminate a clause that explicitly obliges the contractor to comply with Florida’s public records law — likely due to Key Biscayne’s public records lawsuit against the NMMA, which denies the allegations made by village officials.