Letters to the Editor

Miami-Dade blew Disney World opportunity

Re Benedict Kuehne’s Jan. 2 letter, Disney rejected Miami-Dade for theme park, about Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss’ statement that, years ago the county essentially “told Disney to take a hike” when it wanted to build Disney World here. Moss’ account is essentially accurate.

My information comes from the late County Mayor Stephen P. Clark, who served on the county commission and was intimately involved in the Disney negotiations. In the mid 1980s, I served as executive director of the Metro-Miami Action Plan and Clark was a chairman of our board. I had the opportunity to spend lots of time with him at committee and board meetings as well as special events. On several occasions, I heard Mayor Clark lament the fact that the county blew the opportunity to have Disney World built here. Clark never deviated from his account that Disney wanted to come to Miami for several reasons:

▪ We already had a well-established international airport to bring tourists from the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America.

▪ Miami had a diverse, multilingual population that was already well-versed in the hospitality industry.

▪ Visitors to our already-popular tourist destination would simply add a day or two to their visit to go to the Disney attraction.

Rather than competing with them, Disney World would complement our menu of attractions. In fact, Disney had already acquired large parcels of land in unincorporated northwest Miami-Dade County, the area now known as Doral. The area where Trump National Doral now resides was to be the centerpiece of Disney World.

The negotiations went smoothly until Disney demanded that the county pay for infrastructure improvements — roads, water and sewer lines. According to Clark, the cost was a few hundred thousand dollars, a significant, but not unreasonable, amount of money at that time especially considering all the jobs and other economic benefits that we would get in return.

Disney issued an ultimatum, and the County Commission debated the issue. Clark reported that some commissioners became somewhat arrogant (can you believe that?) and said that “If Disney wants to be in Florida, they really have nowhere else to go. No other area can offer what we have.” So, the majority voted against the infrastructure payment, and the rest, as they say, is history. Our loss was Orlando’s gain.

Miami-Dade blew a great opportunity when we rejected Disney’s final offer. Moss is a dedicated public servant who doesn’t want to see history repeat itself. I’ve known him for many years and his integrity is without question in my view.

Larry Capp, Miami Gardens