Jungle Island Rejects City’s Rescue Plans
MIAMI (CBSMiami) Not surprisingly, Jungle Island said Wednesday that it could not reach agreement with the city of Miami on expanding the attraction’s role and space on Watson Island, calling into doubt it’s ability to make both short term and long term loan payments for which Miami and Miami-Dade taxpayers are on the hook.
The city and the attraction, which moved to Watson Island from Pinecrest after Hurricane Andrew, met last week after Jungle Island officials claimed that it could not meet a short term loan payment without funding from an outside investor, who wanted to increase the scope of the project in return for a large investment.
That investment would allow Jungle Island repay the city and county for future larger HUD payments for which the two governments are legally responsible.
“Although over these past few days we have made significant progress on some of the major
issues, we are unable to agree on the City’s proposed term sheet,” said Jungle Island spokesperson Ronald Krongold. “as it contains a number of provisions that prevent us from ensuring we can pay-off the HUD loan, while also ensuring the financial viability of Jungle Island.”
City officials had expressed concern about giving Jungle Island a better financial dear or expanding the property it controlled while it was having trouble paying bills with the income generated by the property it already manages. Some commissioners felt they were being strong armed into a deal that would preserve the attraction at the expense of taxpayers.
The plan is set to be discussed again Thursday at a Miami commission meeting.
Since Jungle Island opened its new doors on Watson Island nine years ago thousands have posed with parrots, alligators and other wonderfully wild creatures. The company blamed a sour economy and port tunnel project for poor park attendance.
The attraction has struggled over the years, taking loans and deferring rent payments to get by.
“I think they are very close. Very close. I think they’ll likely default in August,” said Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.