Ribbon Cutting for Almost Complete Convention Center

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Ribbon Cutting for Almost Complete Convention Center:

Kicking off Art Week and Art Basel with a new facility

It’s about 97 percent complete, but Miami Beach celebrated its new Convention Center with a ribbon cutting and the opening of the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair.
Art Basel was one of the key considerations in an unusual construction schedule which included points where the building was opened up for a limited schedule of small events and then cleared completely for the annual December art fair while creating the illusion (as best as possible) that the building was not actually in various states of completion.
Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales said, “During the last three years, portions of the building remained open for business. We hosted 44 events during this three-year period, no small feat including the last two Art Basels, and all this despite a near miss hurricane, Matthew, and Hurricane Irma last year. The only shows that were ever cancelled during these last three years were cancelled by those natural events.” 
The distinctive fins on the new Convention Center as viewed from 17th Street and Convention Center Drive during Art Basel Miami Beach load-in

Despite the accommodations to hold some events, the City’s important resort tax revenues were reduced and there was less business for local hotels and restaurants. Now, the engine is ready to rev. Morales said, “We’re really excited for the economic impact this state-of-the art facility will have for our restaurants, our hotels and our attractions, and our shops throughout the City and throughout the County.” 
The new facility includes a 60,000 sq ft Grand Ballroom, four junior ballrooms, 84 meeting spaces, and four exhibition halls. The 1.4 million sq ft facility features cutting edge technology. A full-size production kitchen was built to feed up to 10,000 guests. (Our favorite piece of equipment is the oven that can turn out 3,000 cookies in five minutes, as we learned on a preview tour of the facility.)
Nearly 7,000 workers were employed on the project, 64% of them local hires, according to Morales.
Mayor Dan Gelber noted he worked at the Convention Center as an usher when he was a teenager. “This was professional wrestling when I was here. That was art and culture on Miami Beach, mostly professional wrestling,” he joked.
He marveled that the facility has transformed from an old “boxy building” to “one of the most spectacular things anybody’s gonna see.”
“If you’re going to a convention somewhere else, you’re only going because you couldn’t book this place,” Gelber said. “Let’s relish this moment. It’s been a long time coming and it’s only going to continue. This community, this city, this region, we’re on the upswing. We know exactly who we are and everybody in the world’s gonna know it.”
Left to right (above and top photo): City Manager Jimmy Morales (blocked), Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Bill Talbert, Miami Beach City Commissioners Micky Steinberg and John Elizabeth Alemán, Arquitectonica architect Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and Commissioners Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, Mark Samuelian and Ricky Arriola.

The building is now silver LEED certified, a distinction achieved, according to a City press release, by “recycling 96 percent of material waste throughout construction, implementing a rainwater collection system, reducing energy consumption by 20 percent with the installation of low-flow, high-efficiency water fixtures, and mounting glorious sun-shading fins that line the exterior perimeter of the building.”
Following the ribbon cutting on Convention Center Drive, the group moved to the southeast corner of the facility for the unveiling of an exterior mural, one of “six installations representing over $7 million of work by renowned international artists” that will be permanently on display at the Convention Center and in the park as part of the Art in Public Places program, according to Morales. He noted the future Convention Center hotel will provide “another $3-4 million of art in public places so we’re going to have an incredible outdoor art museum when all is said and done.”
Parking lot where new hotel with connecting bridge to the Convention Center will be built

Mayor Dan Gelber with artist Franz Ackermann and Chana Sheldon, Executive Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, in front of new mural on the southeast side of the new Convention Center

The new mural by Franz Ackermann, About Sand, “extends from Ackermann’s long-running ‘Mental Maps’ series, a collection of small-scale paintings and drawings that serve as an abstracted cartography of the artist’s memories of travel,” according to a City press release. “Rendered in vibrant colors and abstracted forms of sand, hourglasses and roadways, About Sand are his impressions of the city’s tourism industry, commerce, urbanism and daily life.”

Convention Center Project Manager Maria Hernandez watches the unveiling of About Sand with Harvey Burstein, Chair of the Miami Beach Arts Trust and founder/publisher of miamiartzine

Fun facts:
1958    Miami Beach Convention Hall is completed. Total cost: $4 million.
1964    Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) defeats Sonny Liston for his first heavyweight championship in Hall C
1968    Republican National Convention takes place at the Miami Beach Convention Center
1972    Republican and Democratic Conventions held at the MBCC, the last time both party conventions were held in the same city  

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