VKAB Update

Virginia Key boat show seeks a long term deal

“We’ve found a beautiful home on Virginia Key and we intend to make it work.”

~ Larry Berryman, Director of Miami International Boat Show

Members of the Virginia Key Advisory Board recently spoke to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) about the future of the Miami International Boat Show on Virginia Key.

The show, now in its 79th year in Miami, moved to Virginia Key in 2016 due to the renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center.

The city of Miami, to which the Advisory Board reports, owns most of Virginia Key, including the historic stadium fronting the basin where speedboat races and concerts were held.

The city spent almost $20 million to upgrade infrastructure in connection with the show's move to Virginia Key. Since the annual tennis tournament moved to Hard Rock Stadium this year, the barren parking lot bakes in the sun for nine months of the year.

Miami Stadium site

The questions posed by VKAB covered financial, logistical and environmental issues.


NMMA said exhibitor space pricing is from $13 to $27 per square foot and that approximately 291,000 sq. feet upland and 306,000 in-water space is available to exhibitors. Approximately 12,800 people work the show onsite (exhibitors, vendors, services, staff, etc.), NMMA reported.

“From 2016 through 2019, there has been no net revenue for the show” said KAB member Lynn Lewis. “We saw a total net loss of approximately $270,000 on parking and food and beverage concessions in 2019.”

Set Up and Tear Down

Asked whether it could shrink the set up and tear down time, NMMA responded that they start with a review of construction and marina preparations in the second week of December. Neighbors, they reporter, are consulted to ensure minimal interruption. Access to the Rowing Center and the City Marina continue thru January 24th, after which we divert access to the Rowing Center through MAST Academy. By late February, normal access to the Rowing Center and Marina are restored. The Show is completely moved out by March 15.

Miami Marine Stadium

Moving Dates

NMMA responded to a question posed by VKAB member Esther Alonso-Luft asked if the boat show would consider moving to the fall to maximizing its positive impact on the local economy, bringing visitors to Miami ahead of the winter peak season..

NMMA said the majority of its 18 boat shows take place “during the January through March time frame as it is the primary selling period for boat dealers.”


Regarding a question from VKAB member Steven Leidner about the show’s environmental impact on Biscayne National Park, the NMMA responded:

“NMMA objected to an earlier General Management Plan for Biscayne National Park, namely because the scientific reasoning behind the proposed 10,000-acre marine reserve was flawed and would have needlessly restricted access to a significant portion of the park.

The Debate

The debate over the future of the boat show comes at a critical juncture for Virginia Key, fresh off of Ultra's controversial one year stay on the island, and the current debate over the $75 million Flex Park being designed by Civitas, and $50 Million Marine Stadium refurbishment, as well as the potential of putting a luxury hotel in the park.

“I think there needs to be something that we have to do in order to make people want to come to Virginia Key Beach,” said Commissioner Keon Hardemon in September. “A luxury beach hotel would be a wonderful asset there with the museum.”

Strict use restrictions in the deeds conveying Virginia Key to the city place barrier to its use. The 1963 Dade County deed requires, for example, there be an operational Marine Stadium. Further, the 1982 Dade County deed conveying the adjoining 82 acre park to the city states:

Virginia Key deed

“The county grants all the real property noted in this Deed to the City as long as the city utilizes the said property for public park purposes only. The City agrees to keep the property open to the public, provide maintenance and a level of service equal to or exceeding that which was provided by the County.”

If the city doesn’t use the property as a public park, the deed conveys back to the county. This, according to the NMMA, present a significant limitation on future development of Virginia Key.

David Winker

David Winker is a local attorney who represented the Brickell Homeowner’s Association on Ultra Music Festival’s move to Virginia Key.