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CRESPOGRAM REPORT

JULY 10, 2013

DON WORTH’S REBUTTAL

Donald Worth

1390 Ocean Drive #207

Miami Beach, FL 33139

Email: dontonton@gmail.com

 

July 8, 2013

 

I am writing to respond to the July 8 issue of the Crespogramreport.

http://www.thecrespogramreport.com/Site_10/THE_LATEST_MIAMI_MARINE_STADIUM_DEAL.html

This document, written about the Miami Marine Stadium, contains many inaccurate statements.

The following is an attempt to correct those inaccuracies.

Donald Worth (dontonton@gmail.com)

 

A Quick Overview

 

-Friends of Miami Marine Stadium is not currently seeking, at this time, a long term lease. Rather, we are satisfying the requirement of the Memorandum of Understanding dated May 15, 2012 requiring that we provide a description of how much land is necessary to generate sufficient revenue for the operation of the Marine Stadium. With this approval, we will initiate fundraising. After we have had some fundraising success, we will return to the City Commission to request a long term lease with a more detailed proposal.

 

-The Site Plan was approved unanimously on December 18, 2012 by the Marine Stadium Task Force, a blue ribbon commission selected by the City Manager to work with us to develop the plan. The Steering Committee was very rigorous with us-we met with them five times (publicly noticed meetings) and gave four powerpoint presentations.

 

-We presented our plan to the Miami City Commission on March 14, 2013. Below is a link to the video of the meeting:

 

http://miami.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=47

Time Start, 3:33 PM


I suggest that anyone concerned with issues raised in the Crespogram report view this video. That way, they will see the full presentation with all material accurately presented, in context.

 

The restoration of the Marine Stadium is a complex and very challenging project, especially without government funding. As part of a team that has worked on this since February, 2008, we are more confident than ever that we can create a great public waterfront space for the Miami Community.

 

Below is a point by point response to some of the main issues raised in the Crespogram Report. I may have omitted some issues, but there is a lot to cover. I would be happy to answer any additional questions.

 

Friends of Miami Marine Stadium

 

Our group was established under the administrative umbrella of Dade Heritage Trust in February, 2008. We operated in concert with DHT for three years. It became apparent that the project was so vast that it required a single purpose organization. I did fill out the paperwork establishing FMMS in late 2010 (someone has to fill out the paperwork). We received our not for profit status in August, 2011 and we have been functioning since October, 2011. We have a full Board of Directors and an Advisory Board; some of our distinguished Board and Advisory Board members are very well known in the community (check out our website, www.marinestadium.org). Our Treasurer, Jose Mendana, Jr., is a certified public accountant. We have been providing monthly financial statements to the City of Miami, as required by the City, since July, 2012. (Note: Given that we receive no funding from the City, we find that it is highly unusual for the City desire to see monthly financials. Nevertheless, we have complied with this request.) We are up to date on all required State and IRS filings.

 

This is a working Board. The irregularities implied by the Crespogram report have not happened-and will not happen.

 

Amount Expended for Marine Stadium Feasibility

 

In various presentations, we have stated that we have provided over $600,000 in funding, and analysis towards developing a plan for the restoration of Miami Marine Stadium. We can provide a spreadsheet that covers the specifics on this-and actually, this number is conservative.


The largest single estimate is $250,000 for the creation of the Virginia Key Master Plan. The Plan was done by Jorge Hernandez, Hilario Candela, and Tappy Lynn with two classes of Undergraduate and Graduate Level Architecture Students at the University of Miami over an 18 month period. The specifics involved hundreds of hours of drafting, meetings with over 30 community groups, numerous presentations, and substantial review of all aspects of feasibility. The plan was approved unanimously by the Miami City Commission on July 22, 2010.

 

Previously, the City of Miami had hired the Landscape Architecture firm EDSA to do a Master Plan for Virginia Key. The EDSA plan was discarded by the City Commission in September, 2009.The plan cost the City $965,000. There was no payment requested for our approved plan which not only achieved community consensus, but was more technically accurate.

 

Lease

 

As stated in the introduction, we are not requesting a lease at this time. We have fulfilled our obligation under the MOU, demonstrating how much land is necessary to support the Marine Stadium. Now, we’re ready for fundraising.

 

The land sought by FMMS is fully consistent with the Virginia Key Master Plan. Many “Master Plans” get thrown in the wastebasket-we believe we can make it work.

 

Financial Operations The Marine Stadium

 

Operating the Marine Stadium involves two significant issues: sustainability and community. Can the Stadium do both? After five years of hard work, we believe it can, but it requires a realistic assessment of the future.

 

The March 14 presentation (the one selectively referred to by the Crespogram report) contains five years of projections. The projections were developed in close consultation with The Heat Group, who have significant experience in operating entertainment venues and have been working with us over a four year period.


For year 1, we are projecting 49 paid event days. By year 5, we increase the number to 75. It would certainly be easy to project more event days, but we believe that this is a prudent number. The history of other performing arts venues in Miami (Arsht Center, Fillmore in South Beach, South Dade Arts Center) suggests that we should budget a learning curve. At 49 days, we project that the Stadium will lose money; at 75 days, it exceeds breakeven and is profitable. Given the initially unstable nature of performing arts centers, we have established an initial reserve (part of fundraising). We also need the Maritime Center to provide both services related to the Stadium (Ie. covered parking) and a source of cash flow for maintenance reserves.

 

As mentioned above, the projections only include PAID operating days. We would plan that the Stadium will be open as much as possible on a nonpaid basis for community events and as a public park (in fact, the Stadium is now so admired that the Department of Public Facilities has difficulty keeping people out.)

 

What If the Stadium Is a Great Financial Success?

 

We believe (unlike many other rose colored presentations to the City of Miami) our projections should be prudent and conservative. What happens if the Marine Stadium is a tremendous success, generating significant excess revenue and being programmed for many more event days? (Note; after five years of working with promoters and event organizations, I happen to think this is very possible!).

 

As we presented in our March 14, any excess revenue becomes a policy decision for the Miami City Commission, and perhaps the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority. Should revenue be forewarded to the general fund? Or perhaps be recirculated to provide more community events at Marine Stadium? Or perhaps be a fund for the continued restoration of Virginia Key? Friends of Miami Marine Stadium is a NOT FOR PROFIT and we are not interested in these “profits”. It is our desire to operate the Stadium for the benefit of the community and the decisions as to how funds that exceed normal capital and operating reserves funds should be utilized is to be publicly discussed and decided.

 

 

Marine Stadium Deed


Any discussion of potential uses of profits should involve the Marine Stadium Deed. In 1963, Miami Dade County deeded the land the Marine Stadium sits on (including the two operating Marinas) to the City of Miami for the purposes of creating a Marine Stadium. Under the terms of the Deed, if the City does not maintain the Stadium, the land reverts back to the County (to see the Deed, go to our website and scroll in the section “City Reports”). Our plan will bring the City back into compliance with the Deed. The City should consider the Deed before allocating the disbursement of any excess profits.

 

Potential Loss of Revenue

 

The Crespogram report alledges that a future land transfer will result in the loss of over $500,000 annual net operating revenue from the Marinas to FMMS. This is wrong. No Marina revenue will be transferred to FMMS. According to data provided to us by the Department of Public Facilities, FY 2012 revenue loss would be a total of $84,150 ($51,750 from marginal revenue derived from renting out Marine Stadium parking lot, $32,400 from the rental of the Bayside Hut).


By comparision, we estimate that the proposed Maritime Center will generate $290,000 of real estate taxes to the City and $121,000 in parking surcharges for a total of $411,000. The Marine  Stadium restoration will generate 384 construction jobs and 216 permanent jobs on an ongoing basis (note, we have not made calculations for the Maritime Center). This does not include any of the “excess profits” in the event that the Stadium is as financially successful as we hope it will be.

 

Finally, we might note the irony of the current situation. Under the terms of the Deed, the net profit generated by the Marinas should be used to benefit the Marine Stadium and not the City’s general fund. We have never asked for this revenue.

 

Virginia Key Master Plan-Westward Expansion of the Marinas

 

The Virginia Key Mater Plan shows no wet slips in the Marine Stadium Basin. The Marina expansion occurs slightly South of the Rusty Pelican. The overwhelming consensus during the three year planning process from many individuals and organizations was to protect the Basin from permanent wet slips so that it could be perpetually used for community watersports, entertainment, and other aquatic events. Our initial evaluation of sea grass suggests that this is possible-but will need further verification. In the event there are sea grass issues, as with all waterfront projects, it may be possible to either work around them or pay mitigation fees. We recognize this issue needs further study and work.


The Virginia Key Master Plan contains a series of canals. The design was carefully thought through, paying attention to detailed logistical issues, such as turning radius for automobiles with boat trailers. Currently, there are two Marinas operating on Virginia Key-the City Marina and the Rickenbacker Marina, which has approximately four years to go on their lease. We’ve talked with Marina operators and they believe that the plan as presented is feasible (remember, the Marine Stadium and the adjacent parking lot sits on land that was dredged from the Marine Stadium Basin when it was created in 1962; it is not environmentally protected wetland). The City will make a decision as to how to pursue the Marinas-but the Master Plan is both aspirational and practical. We believe if the Stadium is as successful as we think it can be, there will be positive momentum to complete the Master Plan and help create a truly great destination.

 

Maritime Center

The proposed Maritime Center is fully consistent with the Virginia Key Master Plan. It has three purposes: 1)Provide additional services to the Marine Stadium (ie. covered parking spaces) 2)Provide a source of cash flow for the maintenance of the Stadium 3) Help achieve a public purpose to create a great waterfront space. To that end, we are pleased to be working with the Antique Boat Museum of Clayton, NY, the largest freshwater maritime museum in the United States (website www.abm.org). The Antique Boat Museum is interested in funding a satellite museum in the Maritime Center and develop recreational and educational programs, helping us to provide Miami residents with access to the water. Because Rickenbacker Causeway is heavily travelled by bicycle, we have also made outreach efforts to the biking community to assure that the Marine Stadium site is a bicycle hub.  Again, the goal is to create a PUBLIC waterfront space that is active even when the Stadium is not in use.

 

In the future, we will develop an RFP process with the City of Miami to solicit proposals for the Maritime Center. First, however, we intend to focus on fundraising for the Marine Stadium so that the project becomes real.

 

Management of the Marine Stadium: The Heat Group

 

A key issue for us has been: who should operate the Stadium? We don’t believe either the City of Miami-or our group alone-is qualified to do so. Over the last five years, we have done our due diligence and met with numerous operators. We have settled on The Heat Group, operators of American Airlines Arena as by far our best possible choice. They are experts in facilities management, corporate sponsorship, sports and entertainment events. They have also spent literally hundreds of our hours evaluating the feasibility of the Stadium and we are pleased that we share the same vision of a multipurpose venue. We have found them to be serious, straightforward, and detail oriented.


The Crespogram report suggests that the Heat Group will run a restaurant. No. They will be responsible for running the Marine Stadium and adjacent Park, under our supervision and pursuant to a management agreement. Their fee compares extremely favorably with the fee negotiated by the City of Miami to operate the Knight Center (not a start up Marine Stadium, but an auditorium with an existing operational structure and revenue stream).

 

We have found several other benefits to working with the Heat Group 1)Their involvement will enhance our fundraising package 2)They areextremely well respected by the front line customers for the Marine Stadium-the promoters, producers and event organizations who will actually use the venue and ultimately make it successful.

 

Administrative Role of FMMS

 

Our projections assume that once the Stadium will be up and running, FMMS will receive approximately $300,000 annually to run the operations of Marine Stadium Park. Here’s a review of the basic math:

 

-FMMS raises $30 million to restore the Marine Stadium. Money is held in an escrow account managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

 

-FMMS raises an additional amount to cover initial reserves and potential operating losses (this amount could be another $4-7 million)

 

-In the event the Marine Stadium is a total success, any “profits” go to an as yet unspecified source (ideally, to fund additional community activities for the Marine Stadium or as a revenue stream for the restoration of Virginia Key).

 

The modest annual operating budget will enable FMMS to oversee the successful operation of Marine Stadium Park and to fulfill its function of creating a public waterfront space, by soliciting grants for community events, etc. The budget, which is enough to pay for 2-3 staff people, legal and audit fees (especially significant during the first five years due to the Federal Historic Tax Credit) is consistent with similar organizations (ie. Virginia Key Beach Trust operates in a similar capacity).


We also know-from discussions with potential donors-that FMMS must remain in control. It will simply be impossible for this project to raise money if the City of Miami is perceived to be in charge.

 

A Personal Note

 

The essence of the Crespogram Report seems to be that “I am in this for the money”. I can only say that I find this laughable. The Crespogram Report has never gotten in touch with me or any other members of FMMS to check facts.  I will say, though, that the photo of me at the front of the article really does make me look scary (I didn’t think that was possible!).

 

The Future

 

On behalf of all of us at Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, this has been a true labor of love. We’ve spent thousands of hours on this project. When we started, no one thought that Marine Stadium, a beloved local icon, could be restored. After over 100 community presentations we know there is broad based support. And we are proud of the increasing number of high profile organizations who want to work with us and believe in us, too. This has truly become an international cause. Here’s just a few of them:

 

World Monuments Fund

National Trust For Historic Preservation

Antique Boat Museum of Clayton, NY

Tourism Cares (national not for profit organization funded by the travel industry)

Art Basel/Design Miami

 

The momentum we’ve picked up-especially in the last year, has really been significant. We’ve developed a real critical mass and there are more groups that would like to get involved with us. 

 

In addition, there are many local organizations who are now involved (check our Letters of Support on our website) and many more exciting opportunities on the way. We are always looking for help and ideas. We’ve got 2,600 people on our email list and over 900 people on Facebook. The “Miami Marines” are always giving us ideas, contacts, and help. That’s how the Marine Stadium will become a real, vibrant communityinstitution-but with an international reputation.  We are proud that after five years, we have developed many long term relationships with organizations and individuals-these people know us, respect us, and see the future. 

 

Conclusion


We understand cynicism-and this is a complex project, easy to distort. Over the last five years, we’ve heard the reasons why the Marine Stadium can’t be restored and operating:

 

-“The Stadium was damaged by Hurricane Andrew” (wrong, no one read the City engineering report)

-“The Stadium is a white elephant” (wrong, no one did any due diligence or talked with end users)

-“We have no money to fix it up” (true, but we never asked for any)

-“We have to put it out for bid, this is a giveaway” (NO ONE ELSE has come forward in the last twenty years with a viable plan to restore and operate the Stadium; just an excuse to delay us and expose us even more to the exhausting, unprofessional, unpredictable and sometimes corrupt Miami political process)

 

Only in Miami is raising $30 million to fix up a city owned building that cannot be bought or transferred be considered a "sweatheart deal".

 

We’ve overcome one obstacle after another and we are more confident than ever.

To end with a quote from the great Tony Goldman:

“Vision is daydreaming with your feet on the ground”

 

(HINT: YOU NEED TO DO BOTH)

 

Happy to answer any questions

 

Donald Worth (dontonton@gmail.com)

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