Miami Beach

New music fest could be coming to South Beach. Is the city ready for its own Coachella?

Fans at the concert celebrating Miami Beach’s centennial, held on South Beach in March 2015. Some members of the production team who organized that event are involved in planning the Miami Beach Pop Festival.
Fans at the concert celebrating Miami Beach’s centennial, held on South Beach in March 2015. Some members of the production team who organized that event are involved in planning the Miami Beach Pop Festival. cjuste@miamiherald.com

South Beach could soon add a new event to a packed calendar of festivals, concerts and art fairs: a three-day pop music festival on the sand. The news may delight music lovers, but will undoubtedly prompt grumbling from residents tired of big crowds.

After months of meetings with residents and city staff, organizers of the proposed Miami Beach Pop Festival got an initial thumbs up from the Miami Beach Commission on Wednesday night to host the event for the first time in November 2019.

The festival, which organizers envision as Miami’s version of Coachella, would be held on Nov. 8-10 on the beach between Fifth and 10th streets. Although the details have yet to be finalized, organizers have suggested a wide range of possible headliners including Arcade Fire, Bruno Mars, Elton John, Enrique Iglesias, and Lady Gaga. The festival is expected to attract 35,000 people a day.

Convincing the City Commission to green light a new event on South Beach was a tough sell. Residents often complain about the traffic jams, crowds and partying that accompany big events on the island. City officials also worry about attracting too many visitors. Spring break crowds overwhelmed South Beach this year, prompting police to temporarily shut down eastbound lanes on the MacArthur Causeway.

“I’m not enthused with another huge event,” Mayor Dan Gelber told the organizers at Wednesday’s meeting. Gelber and two other commissioners, Mark Samuelian and Micky Steinberg, voted against the proposal.

But Donald Lockerbie, one of the event producers, assured city officials that the festival would be well-organized and bring economic benefits to the island. He said that organizers hoped to attract numerous residents, which could help minimize traffic impacts.

“We see it as a world-class event, a world-class event that the city wants to see. This is not some event where anything will go,” Lockerbie said. “We think that by doing it around the Veterans Day weekend, we actually can create a spark to your revenue,” he added. Organizers estimate that the festival would generate at least $20 million in economic benefits during its first year.

A three-day festival pass would likely cost roughly $300, but residents would be eligible for discounted tickets. Organizers also plan to donate a portion of ticket sales to Miami Beach environmental organizations, according to a proposal shared with city staff.

The organizers initially approached the city last summer about hosting a pop festival, but had trouble finding a date that city officials would approve. Initial plans to hold the concert in December were abandoned after city officials expressed concern about hosting another big event around the time of Art Basel. Turtle nesting season prevented organizers from holding a festival on the beach between April 1 and Oct. 31, and other big events limited the remaining available dates. After consulting with city staff, organizers settled on the second weekend in November.

In addition to Lockerbie, the team behind the festival includes Steve Sybesma and Paul Peck, who co-founded the annual Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, and Miami Beach-based ACT Productions, which helped produce the city’s centennial celebration in March 2015.

Organizers still have to secure the necessary permits in order to host the event. Miami Beach’s special event permitting process requires organizers to hold a series of meetings notifying the community about the plans, according to city staff.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include the names of the commissioners who voted against the proposal.

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