By Duncan Walgreen
The party is back on for Bayfront Park in Downtown, Miami in 2020! After a vast journey outwards into the unknown that was Virginia Key, Ultranauts are being prepared for their return home to the beloved Bay-front Park. Ultra Music Festival has confirmed the rumours are true, after a 3-2 vote by the Commissioners of the City of Miami, the tables have turned, it’s on the record, and now it’s time to play. Known as the ‘Premiere Dance Music Festival’ in the World, Ultra has the pleasure of providing one of the greatest festivals on its favourite turf, Bayfront Park. Although seemingly mission impossible, there is a story behind their long road back to Bay-front park.
When news first broke after Ultra Music Festival’s 20th anniversary that the City of Miami would not permit their return to Bayfront Park in 2019, Ultra’s fans truly could not expect the unexpected. Ultra was then granted a two year, revocable license by the City of Miami to operate at its new home on Virginia Key, where the 21st Ultra took place this year in March.
Ultra made the very best of their new home on Virginia Key but soon decided to cancel the second year of their contract, continuing the search for a new location for the electronic music festival in 2020 and beyond.
On May 8th, 2019, the producers of Ultra swiftly released an apology to their loyal fans for the “logistical problems” of traffic that lead to some fans walking home, while severing ties with the City of Miami, who had hosted Ultra over it’s 21 years of life thus far. Ultra was scheduled to have a hearing regarding the potential renewal or termination of contract for Ultra’s second year to be on Virginia key, but instead took the ball back in their court by deciding it would no longer be at the will of the City of Miami.
The hearing went on without Ultra, where City Manager Emilio Gonzalez voiced his apathy for the decisions of his peers that drove Ultra out of the city in the first place, citing, “That kind of economic impact for the residents of our city, I think it’s a huge loss.” The City of Miami would have been going without a $2 Million rental fee, as well as millions raised by businesses such as the many hotels and restaurants and their subsequent taxes.
With over two decades of successful shows in their repertoire, expectations were high of the brand’s execution on new territory, and with the highest expectations came the highest hurdles. With only half their usual production schedule to plot and plan their festival while breaking new ground, many obstacles presented themselves. Namely, the transportation feat of moving over 50,000 ravers from a small island with a few accessible lanes of traffic back to the mainland of Miami, sound bleed and long walks. It’s easy to say that a ticket price of Ultra should come with a flawless festival experience, but it is not easy to say that anyone could have done it better considering the circumstances.
Ultra ensured its fans that it was going to listen closely to their reactions and conducted a survey for its attendees. After a turbulent year that comes with new territory, Ultra announced that they would no longer be taking place at their original home in Miami, but instead began setting their sights on a new location yet again. Speculation arose over whether the festival would move to the Homestead-Miami raceway or move north to Fort Lauderdale. Meanwhile, restaurant, hotel and other small business owners and residents in favour of the culture of dance music that Ultra instils, all began to voice their concerns over significant loss of revenue that is driven to the city by the massive festival attendance.
Wednesday, July 24th was a sigh of relief for the producers of Ultra Music Festival, their fans, and Bayfront Park’s surrounding businesses. The dramatic 3-2 vote passed the measure to allow the festival to return home to Bay-front, Commissioners Willy Gort (of District 1) and Manolo Reyes (of District 4) who lead the charge to make this happen, as well as Commissioner Keon Hardemon (of District 5), voted in favour. Ultra’s biggest opposition came from Commissioners Ken Russell (of District 2) and Joe Carollo (District 3), who voted against the measure.
Though there are definitely some residents of the downtown area that would rather not deal with the traffic and noise, Ultra amended it’s proposal through negotiations with the City on Wednesday night that would shorten the days the park was closed to the public and reduce the maximum volume levels for the stages that would affect the towers of the downtown area. Ultra also agreed to continue with its earlier curfew of 11 pm (the festival went on as late as 2 am at Virginia Key). Ultra was praised by several residents that relayed cultural and tourism benefits as well as the ability of the massive platform that is Ultra Music Festival to promote positive environmental impacts as shown by their great efforts at Virginia Key. Small and big business owners of Miami were also present and speaking up for Ultra at Wednesday’s hearing, including restaurant (Kimodo, Planta) and nightclub (LIV Miami, Story Nightclub) maestro Dave Grutman.
The storm is now behind us as Ultra publicly confirmed their return to Bayfront Park in 2020, with a new license to party. That being said, we are sure to see the Miami Music Week and Winter Music Conference (which was recently acquired by Ultra) come alive once again as the universe that is Ultra Music Festival re-centers and gears up.
Keep reading for our Ultra 2019 Recap of Virginia Key, and stay tuned for Ultra 2020 on March 27-29th as we follow the party #BackToBayfront
(See our full recap on Ultra Music Festival’s 2019 journey to Virginia Key below)
More information and Tickets will be available soon at: ultramusicfestival.com