I wasn't sure how to take this when the conversation first started. My instincts were to take the City's side since it's my home, but the more the conversation went on, the more I see how the City could be wrong.
As you know, the Bacardi Sailing Regatta was in town all week and I had an interesting conversation with one of the people involved, Gabriele Pedone, the event chair who is with Studio Milano. They put on the functions around town including the events at CocoWalk and the sailors village in Kennedy Park where the sailors hang out, eat, drink and party. The first question Gabriele asked me was why the event was in Kennedy Park rather than Regatta Park. I didn't have an answer, but I asked Kevin Kerwin, the City Parks Director and he said, "Regatta Park is for their dinghies and other small boats. We purposely do not want tents there to impact the grass and its recovery. This has been explained to them from the beginning."
I surmised that myself, since the grass was made a mess of from a regatta which took place in January, which may I remind people here that I was called a "regatta hater" and "sailor hater"when I brought up the fact about the grass being torn up during that particular regatta in our brand new park.
Gabriele also brought up the fact that the city does not welcome the sailors, they sort of just arrive and are on their own. "We're here, now what?" They don't get that type of treatment elsewhere, I am told that other cities welcome them with open arms, arrange transportation, things for them to do and on the whole pamper them. Also, he told me that there is no place that can accommodate their needs, in other words, a boating store or shop to do repairs, sales and that sort of thing, they can't even find a sandwich in the vicinity of the regattas. I told them that supposedly is coming.
Another thing that Gabriele was unhappy about was the nickle and diming by the City of Miami, it seems that the city charges the sailors for everything. Gabriele handles other Regattas including a very large one in Newport, RI in June, and he says that Newport is very happy to have the sailors in town, they pay for everything and they make it very easy for the sailors to be there. Here in the Grove the sailors not only have to pay for parking daily ($20 a day I was told), but they have to also find places to store their trailers. Gabriele had to scrounge a space across South Bayshore Drive at Ransom Everglades, as did other sailors. He says that rather than accommodate the sailors and make it easy for them, the city makes it quite difficult and charges for everything. He says that are guests here with lots of money to spend and the City wants every penny they can get.
I also assumed the sailing village was put on by the city, but the tented sailing village is put on and paid for by Gabriele's company and the city charges them to put the event on in the park. In Gabriele's and other participants' eyes the city does nothing for the sailors who spend money on hotels, restaurants and everything else and they rent them the park space rather than just find a space to accommodate them as a courtesy. When the Expo Center was here and the sailors did their yearly art exhibit, they were charged for space there, too. A nickle here, a dime here. The City is a monster that needs to be fed non-stop.
"If there is a car show, do you charge the cars to be part of the show? Why do they charge the sailors to store their boats/trailers and to park their cars?" asked Gabriele.
"We are disappointed not to be in Regatta Park, which it is my belief that the park was created for regattas," said Gabriele.
I asked him why the Bacardi Regatta comes back year after year if there is a problem with the City of Miami and he told me that other than tradition, there is no other reason.
It's true that so many of our events in Coconut Grove are dying off because of high city costs. The city always has its hand out asking for fees for everything imaginable. Other municipalities in the county don't charge an arm and a leg for people to hold events, they encourage them and in many cases they don't charge anything as they find it to be a privilege to have events in their cities (car shows, art shows, and possibly regattas in the future).