KEY BISCAYNE (CBSMiami) – It was a full house in the commission chambers, with a line of at least 100 people streaming out the front door as Miami City Commissioners considered allowing the Ultra Music Festival, booted out of downtown‘s Bayfront Park, to be held on Virginia Key Beach and next to the Miami Marine stadium. It would draw a crowd of more than 160,000 people.
Despite the many objections from locals and elected officials, the commission voted 4-1 to keep Ultra in the city.
It’s 2019 festival will be held in Virginia Key in March.
“The City of Miami Commission’s vote in favor of an agreement with Ultra Music Festival keeps this world-renowned event in our global city, while providing operating funds for a long-desired African American History Museum at Historic Virginia Key Beach,” City Manager Emilio Gonzalez said in a statement. “We will continue to work with Ultra to ensure that our sacred natural resources are protected, and to mitigate any negative impacts to our residents.”
The festival will be held outside Marine Stadium and in Virginia Key Beach Park.
“Virginia Key can’t handle this event. We can’t handle this event. This will put my residents in danger of being trapped on an island for three days,” Key Biscayne Mayor Michael Davey told the Miami commission.
Critics worry rescue would be impeded by the traffic Ultra would bring to the one road to and from Key Biscayne. And they worry for a sensitive environmental area.
“Three days of electronic music is going to have an impact right in the middle of bird nesting season and manatee season,” one woman told commissioners.
Ultra promoters promise to aim loudspeakers away from the wildlife area, keep litter from getting into the water, and do a meticulous cleanup after the event. Supporters, including tourist interests, say Miami can’t forward to lose Ultra.
Ultra is about more than the music. Many estimate that it brings more than $80 million into the local economy,” one speaker said.
Fans of the now international event note that it was founded in Miami and puts the city on a global stage.
“Ultra is probably the number one brand ambassador for the city of Miami throughout the world,“ said a man who told commissioners his children attend the festival.
Key Biscayne residents say they were blindsided by the proposal to move Ultra to their doorstep.
“To find out about this event a couple of weeks ago, without any notification to anyone, was shocking,” one resident of the Key said.
Ultra promoters are offering Miami $1.4 million to rent the key for the weekend, and to spend millions more on environmental safeguards and public safety.
Commissioner Joe Carollo echoed residents’ concerns that the proposed deal was only recently unveiled, and said the $1.4 million rental fee was too little.