MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The future of the Ultra Music Festival in downtown Miami took center stage Thursday at Miami’s city commission meeting with security being a prime concern. In in the end it was decided that Ultra will return.
“We had one person who died of an overdose at Jackson, two who are in critical condition,” Commissioner Marc Sarnoff told the panel at the beginning of his argument to ‘just say no’ to Ultra.
Security concerns at the event rose to the forefront earlier this year after Contemporary Services Corporation security guard Erica Mack was trampled by a group of people who didn’t have tickets and stormed a fence to get inside. Mack, 28, suffered a fractured skull and her leg was broken in two places.
Mayor Tomas Regalado told the panel Ultra’s noise, traffic and crowds hold the downtown area captive over a long weekend.
“Residents complain that they are prisoners in their homes for three days,” said Regalado.
Sarnoff also showed a video of a fight going on near the front of the stage. He pointed out that there was not a Miami police officer around to stop it and the fight went on for more than six minutes.
“Our students safety and well being is paramount and there is simply no more important measure that we can do is to take care of our students,” said University of Miami Vice President Pat Whitely.
Police say crises involving drugs and psychotic episodes spike 50 percent during the Ultra Music Festival weekend.
Commissioner Frank Carollo said Ultra’s problems could be fixed.
In March, Sarnoff and Regalado proposed a resolution to oust Ultra. That resolution died at Thursday’s meeting because no other commissioner would second it.
“We are pleased with today’s decision by the City of Miami Commission to continue our long-standing tradition of producing the Ultra Music Festival in downtown Miami. We are also extremely happy for our fans from around the world who love coming to Miami to be part of Ultra. The setting for the event in downtown Miami is part of what makes the event magical. We appreciate the commission for their vote today,” said Russell Faibisch, Founder and CEO of Event Entertainment Group, Inc., producer of Ultra Music Festival, in a statement.
Ultra’s organizers agreed to hire more police officers, improve the fencing, establish substance abuse stations and maintain direct contact between their security personel and the police chief. Sarnoff, however, didn’t get two concessions he asked for. He wanted to ban alcohol sales and set 18 as the minimum age to attend the festival.
“We will continue to work closely with the City of Miami, the Bayfront Park Management Trust, City of Miami Police Department and other municipal partners, small business owners and the local downtown community to ensure next year’s event is a safe and fun environment for concertgoers and Miami residents. We are pleased to continue our ongoing practice of assessing and implementing improved security measures as well as any recommendations from our ongoing security review being led by our new Director of Security, Police Chief Ray Martinez,” according to Faibisch’s statement.
On Wednesday the head of the city’s police union sent commissioners an outline of how it could be more secure.
In the proposal, Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz called for police officers to replace private security guards because they training, experience and authority to handle the large crowds who attend the event.
In addition to heavier, more secure two layers of fencing, Ortiz’s proposal also called for all concert goers to undergo a police pat down, no duffle bags or brief cases would be allowed and there would be no re-entry. The proposal called for an increase liability insurance to $20-million and a $2-million bond to protect the City of Miami from liability.
Ultra brings in roughly $80 million annually to the local economy.
“As a Miami-based company, creating jobs and attracting tourism to South Florida, we are privileged to create over 1,800 direct jobs in our community and bring over $80 million in economic impact to our local economy,” said Faibisch in concluding his statement. “We are optimistic about the future and creating more opportunities to grow and strengthen Miami for all.“