Miami International Boat Show finds success at new home

The Miami Marine Stadium provided the backdrop for the 2016 Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show.

The Miami Marine Stadium provided the backdrop for the 2016 Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show.

The 2016 Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show celebrated its 75th anniversary and hosted a successful five-day event at its new home at the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin over Presidents Day Weekend.

Conducted for the first time at the waterfront site, the Boat Show shined against the backdrop of Biscayne Bay and Miami’s sparkling skyline. With 100,279 attendees, up by 4 percent over the 2015 show, attendees from the community and an estimated 35 countries across the globe came out to experience the event, helping bolster tourism and put Miami on an international stage.

Exhibitors reported strong sales, with many reporting increases from 20 percent to 400 percent. All told, initial data indicate the 2016 event will likely meet or exceed its $597 million economic impact from previous years.

“The Miami International Boat Show was a resounding success for exhibitors, attendees, and South Florida. Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin proved to be the ideal location for the best boat show we have hosted to date,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the organizers of the Boat Show.

“Whether it was the gorgeous weather, exhibitors reporting significant sales, attendees enjoying the new on-water features, or the more than 100,000 people from around the world who brought tourism dollars to Miami-Dade — this year’s show was the start of what we hope will be a long, successful run at Marine Stadium Park and Basin.”

The Boat Show’s comprehensive transportation plan proved effective, with traffic moving smoothly along the Rickenbacker Causeway for residents and visitors heading into and out of Key Biscayne. Emergency vehicles also were able to traverse the causeway without issue. The Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation reports an average of 4,000 additional cars on the Rickenbacker Causeway each day of the event as compared to the same period in 2015 and in line with the 4,000 pre-paid Boat Show parking spaces on Virginia Key.

Miamians also embraced the park and ride model, with an estimated 80 percent of Boat Show attendees parking at designated offsite locations and arriving via shuttle bus or water taxi. While long waits were reported for water taxis and shuttle buses, improvements were made each day to keep them flowing more smoothly, making it clear what steps the Boat Show must take to significantly reduce or eliminate long wait times for next year.

What’s more, traffic data collected by Miami-Dade County show that except for opening day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the average travel time from S. Bayshore Drive and South 26th Road to MAST Academy was 7-10 minutes, just slightly longer than the normal six minutes and 50 seconds. Only for the three-hour period at the show’s opening on Thursday did travel time average 21 minutes, which was reduced to 7-10 minutes after signage adjustments were made. Key Biscayne local traffic was free flowing throughout the five-day event.

“Because this was our inaugural event at the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin, we kept a close watch on delays and issues as they arose, and made adjustments each day of the show — adding more shuttle buses and reallocating water taxis to improve transportation daily,” said Cathy Rick-Joule, director of the Miami International Boat Show. “Using the lessons learned this first year, we know what we need to do to improve the consumer experience for years to come.”

The Boat Show also sparked momentum for restoration of the historic Marine Stadium, with an estimated 100,000 people either being reintroduced to the Miami landmark for the first time in years or seeing the historic structure for the first time. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Dade Heritage Trust, and non-profit Restore Marine Stadium Inc. jointly operated an information booth immediately in front of the historic structure where they gathered 2,300 signatures in support of Marine Stadium’s restoration.

“From both a business and a resident perspective, the 75th Miami International Boat Show was a huge success,” said Harry Vernon, co-owner of locally based Captain Harry’s Fishing Supply. “We exceeded our sales expectations by a wide margin and that’s great news for our business and for our employees.

“As a lifelong Key Biscayne resident, I had no issues with traffic or congestion during the event. I also spoke with many fellow residents who reported traffic was not an issue and the show was a welcome neighbor for the community. I appreciate the great lengths the Boat Show went through to not only ensure traffic on the causeway moved smoothly, but that that the show built an environment of excitement and fun, helping to create cherished memories, while injecting significant economic activity into Miami-Dade.”

The Boat Show also continued its decades-long track record of protecting and respecting the environment during the 2016 event. The installation of 100 percent EPA-approved and fully encapsulated temporary docks ensured that marine basin waters remained clean. Before the show even began, Dock and Marine Construction Corp., the local company tasked with installing the temporary docks, removed an estimated 100 yards of existing trash from the basin.

Furthermore, no negative environmental issues or onsite incidents were reported during the event, and two City of Miami Police Marine Patrol boats monitored in-water Boat Show traffic 24/7 throughout the show.

“We learned a lot this first year at our new home and will be making improvements for 2017 — from decreasing taxi and shuttle bus wait times to adding signage and personnel, and tweaking our hospitality offerings — we’ve begun analyzing what worked and what didn’t and will make next year’s show even better,” Dammrich noted. “This show belongs to the boating and South Florida communities and to our more than 2,000 marine exhibitors — we encourage everyone to share their feedback to help shape our plans for future years at Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin.”

The 2017 Miami International Boat Show will be held at Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin, Feb. 16-20, 2017.

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