Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Miami Gardens pleads with the Dolphins: No Formula One racing at Hard Rock Stadium

When an attorney representing the Miami Dolphins took the podium Wednesday during a meeting of the Miami Gardens City Council, he pointed out that the major events held at Hard Rock Stadium are turning the community into “the nation’s entertainment capital.”

That’s when a resident blurted out: “We don’t want it!”

That sentiment was resounding: Miami Gardens residents — or at least about 30 who addressed the council Wednesday — want nothing to do with a proposal that would bring an annual Formula One racing event to the stadium and a public road outside of it.

Responding to those residents, the council unanimously passed a resolution proposed by Councilwoman Lillie Q. Odom to oppose the plan. Odom cited concerns about dangerous noise levels and unsafe air quality that the race could bring. Her fellow council members agreed, adding that representatives from the Dolphins and Formula One have failed to properly involve them in the conversation.

“As a matter of good public policy and civic engagement, I would have expected that, for a project as monumental as this, there should have been better communication and coordination between community groups, elected officials and, most importantly, our residents,” said Vice-Mayor Erhabor Ighodaro, who said he wasn’t aware of the project until County Commissioner Barbara Jordan held a public forum last month.

Jordan is now pledging to do what she can to block the event, despite saying she has supported all of the Dolphins’ requests for new events in the past.

“Except this one,” Jordan told the council. “There comes a time when you have to take a stand when you feel that something is not right.”

But the city and county’s options are limited. The Dolphins have a legal right to host racing events at the stadium site under the terms of an agreement with Miami-Dade County.

Jordan has placed two items on next Tuesday’s Miami-Dade Commission agenda that would, at the very least, put road blocks in the project’s path. First, she drafted a resolution that would give the commission the power to deny street closures related to racing events, a power that currently lies with the county administration, Jordan said.

Second, she proposed an ordinance — anticipating that the Dolphins might offer to host the event inside the stadium without using public roads — that would force the team to acquire special events permits from both the city and the county.

Two representatives for the Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, touting the economic, entertainment and employment benefits an annual F1 event could bring.

“This is a major event that will bring more jobs, more opportunity,” said Myles Pistorius, the senior vice president and general counsel for the Dolphins and the stadium. “We’ve offered a very attractive package of internships, [education] programs [and] tickets ... This resolution frankly is premature and we’d like to continue a dialogue.”

Pistorius and another Dolphins spokesman declined to comment further after the meeting.

The issue has become an essential one for residents in Miami Gardens, who have been rallied by former county commissioner Betty T. Ferguson. At Wednesday’s meeting, Ferguson suggested the Formula One event wouldn’t deliver lasting benefits.

“The bedroom community of Miami Gardens is no place for a race that no one else wants,” Ferguson said, referencing the fact that the City of Miami rejected the Dolphins’ proposal for F1 racing there last year. “People will go back to their nice, clean communities with their money in their pockets.”

Odom, the city council member, noted in her resolution that while events at Hard Rock Stadium — including home games for the Miami Dolphins and Hurricanes, the Orange Bowl, the Miami Open tennis tournament, and concerts — generate “mega dollars” and “tourism,” the Formula One event could bring “days of deafening engine noise” and “a disruption of the regular flow of traffic,” as well as air quality concerns due to engine fumes.

A wave of community leaders spoke against the plan, including former Miami Gardens mayor Shirley Gibson and county commission candidate Sybrina Fulton, a lifelong Miami Gardens resident and the mother of the late Trayvon Martin.

Current Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III — who didn’t attend the meeting because he was out of town — also said he opposes Formula One at Hard Rock. In a statement, Gilbert told the Miami Herald: “While I believe that large scale events at the stadium are necessary for the continued development of Miami Gardens, there has to be a balance, deep consideration for the community, and constant communication regarding how proposed events will impact the community.”

Stephen Ross, the Dolphins’ owner, has said he will cover all race costs, including an expected $40 million custom track that would run predominantly on the Hard Rock Stadium grounds.

Ross has been vying to bring Formula One to the Miami area since 2017, when he launched an effort to bring it to downtown Miami. When that fizzled, he moved the proposal to the stadium that he and his partners own in Miami Gardens.

Last week, Formula One and the Dolphins issued a joint statement saying the event, which would be known as the Formula One Miami Grand Prix, would have an “annual impact” of over $400 million and 35,000 room nights at area hotels.

“The Formula One Miami Grand Prix will be an economic juggernaut for South Florida each and every year,” the statement said.

Locals have other ideas.

“I would ask the Dolphins’ CEO, Tom Garfinkel: put it in your yard,” Miami Gardens resident Deirdre Anderson said during public comment. “I would ask the Miami Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross, why not at your house?”