Reporting David Sutta
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The countdown to Ultra Music Fest 2103 is underway. The giant music festival, which spans two weekends this year, will take over Downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park in less than two weeks.
The annual outdoor electronic music festival will draw thousands of fans but not all downtown residents are looking forward to the event.
This is the 15th year for the Ultra Music Festival and it appears it will be the biggest show yet as it stretches over two weekends in March for the first time.
Last year, more than 165,000 people packed Ultra. This year, with the two weekends, organizers are expecting more than twice that amount, about 350,000 people.
The numbers of fans and the noise from the concert has a lot of downtown Miami residents and business owners concerned.
Tuesday, organizers and police tried to answer questions as they unveiled their plans that call for 50-percent more police and part of Biscayne Boulevard to shut down. The event has grown so big nearly a quarter of the Miami Police department will be working it.
“Ultra is approved. Ultra is happening. We are less than two weeks away.” Miami Police Lieutenant Joel Gonzalez told a downtown forum before he made his presentation.
Lt. Gonzalez, who oversees special events for the department, said he’s spent months planning for the event. Their biggest concern is traffic. It’s not the biggest event of the year for Miami Police.
“But it’s probably the most difficult because of the amount of hours and the amount of officers it takes.” Gonzalez said.
The crowd control game plan includes shutting down parts of Biscayne Boulevard from Friday at 10 am to Monday at 5 am. To deal with medical emergencies the fire department has setup a station within the park. And police have boosted their presence in the area by 50%. Some 208 cops will cover roughly a 10 block radius.
The concern among downtown residents and business owners has always been about quality of life. The festival attracts music fans but also drug users and people who have no regard for the surrounding community.
“It’s a warzone.” Marquis resident and board member David Pina said.
He and his neighbors will not only endure the crowds and the destruction they leave behind, but no park for 38 days.
“There is no place to even consider walking dogs or getting a breath of fresh air.” Pina said.
Bayfront Park Management Trust Executive Director Timothy Schmand explained it’s a delicate situation.
“You have to balance what the needs of the community are and what the economic impact of something like Ultra can be to a facility like the park.”
Just what does the park stand to make? A contract finalized Friday between the Ultra organizers and the Bayfront Management Trust works out to about $1.2 million dollars, plus a deposit for damages to the park. The fee collected is less than 10% of organizers will likely bring in for the completely sold out event. Tickets started at $299 per weekend. VIP tickets were more than twice that at $749.00.
Ultra Music Festival producer Raymond Steinman said he’s confident they have planned for everything.
“With any big event in a metropolitan area there is a lot of obstacles to overcome and we have tried to adjust to everything we can and try to make it as comfortable for everyone as possible,” said Steinman.
Ultra Music Festival takes place March 15 – 17 and March 22 – 24.
On March 15th at 10:00 a.m. traffic will be diverted on Biscayne Boulevard. The music starts at 5:00 p.m. and goes until midnight on most nights.
While the focus has been on the weekends, those who use the park will be inconvenienced the most. Between setup, the concerts, break down, and repair, Bayfront Park will be closed for an estimated 38 days.