This is probably Ultra’s last chance.
After the mega electronic dance music festival’s disastrous 2014 iteration, there were calls to put the multimillion-dollar event at Bayfront Park out of its misery, while putting downtown residents and business owners out of theirs.
Snarled traffic was the least of it. Security guard Erica Mack was trampled and severely injured when crowds rushed a flimsy fence and trampled her. She is still recovering, with little memory of what happened to her. One young man was found dead in his car from a drug overdose.
Is last year’s nightmare a thing of the past? Ultra organizers have their fingers crossed, and city officials are casting a skeptical eye until the three-day escapade is over.
Its organizers say that safety is a top priority, and that over-the-top fun and security can coexist:
▪ They have brought former Miami Beach police chief Ray Martinez on board. Smart move. He definitely knows a thing or two about handling hordes of visitors. He’s got both Art Basel and Urban Beach Weekend under his belt. He says that 25 teams of “ambassadors” will roam through festival crowds to help attendees in need.
▪ More police officers will be on hand, 330, in addition to 60 firefighters and paramedics.
▪ The festival will be an “adults-only” affair for those 18 and older. Of course, there isn’t necessarily a correlation between age and appropriate behavior, but hey . . .
▪ Health pros will warn attendees about the dangers of drugs. Ultra fans probably already know, but, again, hey . . .
▪ Ultra is reusing the fencing from a recent car-racing event downtown. It’s much stronger than that used last year, which gave way when kids without tickets stormed the concert, leading to Ms. Mack being trampled. Worse, organizers have been warned that the fencing was inadequate, but dismissed the concerns.
▪ Fans have to bring less stuff. This year, there are restrictions on such items as backpacks, masks and inflatables.
▪ Traffic is being routed away from the main event. County buses and trolleys will detour, and Metrorail and Metromover service will be extended to 1 a.m. over the weekend for the festival.
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado is still not persuaded. “Even with all these new measures they’ve taken, I still say that Ultra doesn’t belong in downtown Miami.” Yes, there is noise and inconvenience, none of which is foreign to downtown Miami. How quiet was the car race, after all? But there’s also the revenue for some surrounding restaurants and shops and taxis. Miami is evolving into a 24-hour city that takes all comers. Preparation is the key.
If Ultra has taken to heart lessons learned the hard way, then it might indeed have a future in Miami’s urban core. Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt.