Ultra Music Festival

Hearing for Ultra's Proposed Move to Virginia Key Scheduled for November 15 UPDATED

Hearing for Ultra's Proposed Move to Virginia Key Scheduled for November 15 UPDATED
Photo by George Martinez
Update: Youssef Khamis, founder the Rapture Music Festival, which is scheduled to take place during Miami Music Week March 29 and 30, 2019, in Virginia Key Beach Park, has released a statement saying he has already signed a contract with the park for the dates Ultra hopes to secure and plans to move forward with Rapture. Read the full statement below.

After the City of Miami effectively denied Ultra Music Festival a permit to return to its longtime home at Bayfront Park in downtown, the question immediately arose: Where will it go?

Well, it seems since the September 27 decision, festival organizers have been devising a plan to move Ultra to Virginia Key Beach Park and Miami Marine Stadium. Yes, it would occupy several venues on the island between Key Biscayne and the mainland in what the fest is touting as a "new production concept which would be a natural progression into the next chapter of Ultra’s story [and] would be truly transformative."

Ultra cofounder Russell Faibisch said in a news release: "While we are, of course, excited about the current proposal, this potential partnership represents so much more than Ultra’s impact on either South Florida or on the development of an innovative production element."

The site has many advantages for the festival, including a location far from residential buildings. This would free Ultra from the criticism it's received from downtown residents who have complained about noise. Ultra also hopes to prove to Commissioner Keon Hardemon — who has criticized festival management for ignoring his predominantly black district — that it's an asset to the city. Ultra plans to assist in constructing an African-American museum in Virginia Key Beach Park. (Virginia Key Beach was Miami's black beach during the Jim Crow era.)

"This particular proposal was driven equally by our sense of corporate social responsibility,” Faibisch said. “Our vision, with the assistance of environmentalists and other stakeholders, is to become the standard bearer in reducing environmental impact in the festival space."

The environmental impact will surely be Ultra's biggest hurdle. The festival will have to convince local activists that trash won't end up in the water and affect protected habitats nearby. There's also the issue of traffic congestion, which Key Biscayne residents have often decried during major events on the islands. (The Rickenbacker Causeway is the only road connecting Virginia Key and Key Biscayne to the mainland.)

Another obstacle in Ultra's plans is the Rapture Music Festival, scheduled to take place March 29 and 30, 2019. According to founder Youssef Khamis, Rapture has already inked a deal with the venue. "We have a signed contract with Historic Virginia Key Beach Park dating back to March 2018 for March 29 and March 30, 2019. We're very much looking forward to returning to this beautiful beachside setting for our third edition."

The Miami Commission is set to hear Ultra's proposal November 15.
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Jose D. Duran is the associate editor of Miami New Times. He's the strategist behind the publication's eyebrow-raising Facebook and Twitter feeds. He has also been reporting on Miami's cultural scene since 2006. He has a BS in journalism and will live in Miami as long as climate change permits.
Contact: Jose D. Duran