A new music festival is officially headed for the South Beach sun.
On Wednesday, Miami Beach commissioners unanimously approved special event permits for the Miami Beach Pop Festival and reached a three-year deal with organizers.
The inaugural festival is set for this year, Veterans Day weekend, Nov. 8-10. Although the city reached a three-year deal, the continuity of the festival will be determined on a year-by-year basis.
The approval comes after a lengthy road of bargaining concerning event dates, logistics and community outreach between the city and event producers that’s been ongoing since 2017. City officials approved the festival proposal in September 2018.
However, commissioners who voted down the event last September changed their tune on Wednesday. Mayor Dan Gelber and Commissioner Mark Samuelian, who both voted down the festival’s proposal in 2018, verbally commended the event and courted the idea of the festival moving to March — the month festival organizers originally wanted the event but had to change due to pushback from commissioners.
The festival promises to be a “world-class music event” that is family friendly and prioritizes local community culture and eco-friendly practices. The team behind the festival is event producer Donald Lockerbie, and Steve Sybesma and Paul Peck of Frameless Creative LLC and the co-founders of the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival. Miami Beach-based ACT Productions, the company that produced the city’s 2015 centennial celebration, is also part of the festival team.
The city will not bear the financial brunt of hosting the festival, with event producers taking on the cost. Producers have not yet released the total cost of the event but have said it’s set to generate a minimum of $20 million in its first year and will emulate popular music festivals such as Coachella and Outside Lands. There’s no official music line-up, but the organizer’s suggested acts include Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and Elton John.
Bruce Orosz, CEO of ACT Productions, said organizers are eager to have an annual event, with one reason being most festivals don’t generate a substantial profit until after three years of operation.
“It is very important for us to be able to communicate to our guests that this will become an annual event but also to sponsors and to hopefully see the profits that we expect,” Orosz said.
Event producers have presented plans to police and fire departments, but concerns still loom with festival dates being close to a month away from the SCOPE Art Show and Art Basel, two South Beach staples that attract significant crowds. Miami Beach’s three-year monthly average — from 2015 to 2018 — for hotel occupancy in November was about 73 percent, compared to 85 percent for the month of March.
Gelber said one of the main concerns for him is traffic during the festival.
“My concern always is whether or not the city can absorb the traffic given the brittleness of the [MacArthur] Causeway,” Gelber said.
Site plans for the festival detail that its exit plan is designed to accommodate almost 58,000 people. According to festival organizers, about 35,000 people are expected to be in daily attendance over the three-day event.
Right after commissioners made their decision, Gelber warned Orosz not to waste an opportunity to put on an event the city could be proud of.
“This first one has to be really good,” Gelber said looking directly at Orosz. “I’m still concerned, but I want to give you a shot at it. But I also want you to know that frankly if it turns out that it’s just terrible or it’s somewhere in that vicinity, we’re not going to do it again.”