Many wondered where Ultra Music Festival would house itself in following its boot from its famed longtime home Bayfront Park. Though their transition to holding the event on the Miami-adjacent island of Virginia Key was rapid, this jump has not been without issues. Specifically, the move has ruffled the feathers of Rapture Electronic Music Festival, who have hosted their two day event at the historic island since 2017.
A house and techno-centric event, Rapture has now issued a cease and desist warning to Ultra Music Festival, demanding that Ultra stop applying for permits to use the island for their festival. Both festivals are set to occur on the same weekend, and Rapture notes that they had an agreement with the city to host the event on Virginia Key for three more years. Ultra, however, are going ahead with their organizing of the festival, as they need to have full plans showing that minimal environmental impact will come from moving the festival to the new, harder-to-reach location.
Though no solution or agreement has been reached as of yet, Rapture may have some help from local supporters. Scientists from the University of Miami note that the bass from Ultra’s massive soundsystems could disturb fish in the Virginia Key facility, while other activists suggest that precautions be taken to protect the local birds, manatees, and wetlands. With a mountain of red tape on Ultra’s path to Virginia Key, and a legal battle with an entertainment giant coming forth for Rapture, it is uncertain which festival will wind up with the coveted location.
In late September, news surfaced that Ultra Music Festival had been booted from its longtime home at Bayfront Park. It didn’t take long for the event organizers to propose a new host venue about ten minutes away on Virginia Key, and on November 15, the Miami City Council brought the proposal to an official vote. Even amid contentious opposition from Rapture Music Festival and residents of Key Biscayne, the vote passed — officially moving Ultra to a new home for the first time since 2001.
After more than three hours of heated deliberation, Miami Marine Stadium and Historic Virginia Key Beach Park in Virginia Key became the new host venue for Ultra Music Festival. The vote ended 4-1 in favor of the move, though the decision ultimately came down to two council members on the edge of a “yes” vote. The two year deal does include some contingencies — there’s the possibility of revocation within 60 days after the 2019 festival if certain circumstances occur. What’s more, Ultra has to pay $2 million to the city of Miami in order to sell up to 60,000 tickets to the festival.
But perhaps the grass will be greener in Virginia Key as Ultra opens a new chapter in the festival’s illustrious history. We’ll see come March, 2019.
The going has certainly been tough for the internationally celebrated Ultra Miami to obtain new stomping grounds after the city stripped it of its longtime Bayfront Park housing this past September. The tumultuous process has reached new levels of discord after the Mayor-Elect of Key Biscayne Mike Davey issued the festival and its organizers some overtly captious remarks, characterizing it as a potential “disaster.” Ultra has recently zeroed in on Virginia Key—which is adjacent to Biscayne—as a potential dwelling place for its 2019 installment, hence the resentment.
Davey assigns his scruples with Ultra’s intended move-in to environmental impacts, a likely traffic influx, and “an increase in alcohol and drug-related violence.” Ultra organizers issued a lengthy response repudiating these accusations.
It is deeply regrettable that Mayor-Elect, Mike Davey and the Village of Key Biscayne have elected to publish statements that are knowingly false and misleading rather than to first seek to collaborate with either Ultra representatives or its City of Miami partners (if for no other purpose but to gather accurate facts and to gain an understanding of Ultra’s commitment and obligations respecting, traffic mitigation and environmental and historical preservation planning).
The statement tackles the delivery of the Davey-narrated public announcement, which Ultra affiliates have contended is misleading and inaccurate in its entirety. Ultra spokesperson, Ray Martinez went so far as to say it, “potentially criminalizes [Ultra’s] patrons.”
By opting to instead circulate what appears to be primarily stock photos (unrelated to Ultra) featuring used needles, polluted shorelines, traffic gridlock, by falsely and intentionally reporting that potentially hundreds of thousands of attendees will be converging on the Rickenbacker Causeway and by falsely stating that the City of Miami had purportedly evicted Ultra for environmental destruction, increased alcohol and drug-related violence, safety risks and by reporting other untruths is blatantly disreputable.
In the video, Davey also alludes to his concern for the sanctity of Virginia Key’s unique historical significance, and the potential harm he believes the festival could bring to the Key’s beachfront, specifically. It should be noted, however, Ultra has and continues to consult environmental authorities, civil engineers, and conservation experts in order to assess and subsequently mediate the event’s potential impact on its surroundings.
Davey isn’t alone in his scrutiny of the festival either, as Ultra already received thorough contest from the Virginia Key villagers after organizers released a draft of agreement plans for venue proceedings. An official vote on Ultra’s move to Virginia Key is slated for Nov 15.
Read Ultra’s full statement below:
It is deeply regrettable that Mayor-Elect, Mike Davey and the Village of Key Biscayne have elected to publish statements that are knowingly false and misleading rather than to first seek to collaborate with either Ultra representatives or its City of Miami partners (if for no other purpose but to gather accurate facts and to gain an understanding of Ultra’s commitment and obligations respecting, traffic mitigation and environmental and historical preservation planning). By opting to instead circulate what appears to be primarily stock photos (unrelated to Ultra) featuring used needles, polluted shorelines, traffic gridlock, by falsely and intentionally reporting that potentially hundreds of thousands of attendees will be converging on the Rickenbacker Causeway and by falsely stating that the City of Miami had purportedly evicted Ultra for environmental destruction, increased alcohol and drug-related violence, safety risks and by reporting other untruths is blatantly disreputable. The offending publication(s) by Mayor-Elect, Mike Davey and the Village of Key Biscayne is patently false and inaccurate and was made with reckless disregard of the truth. “It unfairly disparages our brand and potentially criminalizes our patrons,” says Ray Martinez, Ultra’s spokesperson. The publications made by the Mayor-Elect are believed to be defamatory, as are the horrendous images that were published in an effort to purportedly inflame and scare residents and stakeholders. Ultra condemns this conduct and cautions that such leadership is irresponsible and wrongful on multiple factual and legal grounds including that the disturbing images were not associated with the Ultra Music Festival brand.
Tumultuous times have fallen upon Ultra‘s flagship Miami edition. Resident efforts and other factors culminated in a “no” vote from the City Commission to renew their five-year license, ending an era that lasted nearly two decades.
But the show must go one, as they say. The behemoth festival brand has set its sights on the nearby Virginia Key, per a dual confirmation from organizers and city officials that negotiations were in the works to move to this location. Currently, plans are to move the iconic three-day dance festival over to the Miami Marine Stadium; however, complications have already arisen due to the fact that the Miami International Boat Show takes place at the same time and venue. Ultra has noted their desire to run the festivals “in tandem” with one another, in two separate areas of the park. They’ve also run into an obstacle with Rapture Festival’s booking on the space, but organizers are fairly confident the smaller, underground-focused event will end up moving locations should their plans come to fruition.
A vote to determine whether or not the move to Virginia Key will be able to take place will be held on November 15.