What’s Next for Ultra Music Festival?

I can’t believe we’re here again but here we are. Back in August 2018 we asked the same question, as Ultra Music Festival was kicked out of Bayfront Park by the Miami City Commission. After so much time went into planning the move to Virginia Key, the powers that be were still hell bent on getting Ultra out of their respective backyards. Now Ultra is taking its ball and leaving Miami proper completely. No use second guessing it or saying it should go back to Bayfront. Let’s get real – where does Ultra go now?

In branding you want your company to be unique and memorable with a few standout characteristics. In the world of top tier EDC festivals, EDC Vegas is the parking lot festival without an urban setting but lots of space, costumes, PLUR themes, relative proximity to Vegas hotels/clubs and now camping. Tomorrowland is the whimsical park festival with picturesque lakes, countryside hills, plenty of space, and lots of well-curated stages. Ultra Music Festival is the one with the cutting edge dance music lineup, an urban setting with gleaming glass buildings in view, close proximity to blue water, close proximity to hotels and transportation, and also Miami Music Week parties that go all night. With this in mind, Ultra has always wanted to keep this formula intact. That’s why Virginia Key was chosen over the oft-mentioned Homestead Speedway.

We know Ultra plans to leave the City of Miami behind, but that is not all of Miami. It intends on choosing a South Florida location, so Orlando/Tampa/Daytona are all out. What are the options?

1Hard Rock Stadium

The first place you would look is only a 20-30 minute drive away from Bayfront Park. Miami Gardens hosts the Hard Rock Stadium where you’ll find the Dolphins football team playing. It was recently renovated, and as you can see it can hold large music events. The venue has also hosted Life in Color Festival and Rolling Loud Festival in the past, however these events were in the surrounding parking lot. The idea of Ultra Miami becoming a parking lot festival seems unthinkable.

On top of that, there’s a practical problem. The Miami Open Tennis Tournament is scheduled for March 23 to April 15 2020 and the venue will host the Super Bowl in February 2020. That being said, Ultra has not pegged any dates besides March 2020 so anything is possible. However, this is one of the only venues big enough and close enough to Miami’s nightclubs and hotels to keep a large portion of the Ultra vibe we know and love.

2Homestead – Miami Speedway

Since we already know the Hard Rock Stadium is probably not available, the next best place to host a music festival is a Nascar speedway. The Miami Herald seems to think Ultra is in talks with the Speedway already, but nothing is in stone at this point. EDC Vegas thrives at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and we’ve seen festivals like HARD Summer and Imagine Music Festival move to speedways. The advantages are obvious – there is AMPLE space for activities. Bayfront Park is 32 acres, while the Homestead-Miami Speedway is 600 acres.

While Homestead is a 30-40 minute drive south of Bayfront Park, it is surprisingly remote and hotels are scarce. It would have to be a camping festival of some kind, and Ultra is not in the business of running a camping festival. When you consider the unique characteristics of Ultra – this location loses basically all of them except for the lineup. Let’s hope this is not the choice and Ultra doesn’t become another EDC.

3Fort Lauderdale Beach Park

South Florida includes Ft. Lauderdale and it too has some nice ocean-view parks. In fact, this particular park already hosts the Tortuga Music Festival only a few weeks after Ultra. Tortuga Music Festival hosts 100,000 people over its weekend in March. However Tortuga only hosts 3 stages compared to Ultra’s 7. It would be a nice venue and Ultra did get its start on the beach.

4Miami Beach Haulover Park

Aerial drone image of Miami Beach Haulover Park

Blue water? Check. Close proximity to hotels, transport? Check. Space? 99 acres – check. Haulover Park would be a perfect venue in North Miami Beach, but has some of the same issues as Virginia Key. Namely snooty residents and limited access/parking. In 2012, Swedish House Mafia attempted to host Masquerade Motel there and the permit was denied by Miami Date County due to “several logistical requirements that could not be resolved/satisfied to the level required” by the County. It might keep most of what we love about Ultra, but it might be too big of a lift at this point.

5Tropical Park

Tropical Park is a bit of a jog west, but it’s got 275 acres of space and it’s got nice lakes surrounding it as well. It even has a stadium on the property that is normally used for track & field events. It certainly has enough space and is tucked far enough away that it won’t annoy people, but obviously it would be similar to Homestead Speedway in terms of losing the Ultra magic.

6Art of the Deal

Over the past 2 years Miami extracted a devil’s ransom out of Ultra to keep it at Bayfront before reneging on that deal. Then Miami suggested Ultra move to Virginia Key at another sky high price before seemingly pulling most of its support. Ultra made a big splash today by pulling the rug out from the City of Miami ahead of the Thursday meeting. Where the Commissioners were expecting Ultra to come and beg once more, Ultra told them to shove it. Ultra takes with it millions in annual revenue and possibly affects Miami Music Week as well. Who’s going to pay for that African-American History Museum now? Who’s going to pay for that Miami Marine Stadium renovation? Whoops. Miami stands to lose $2 million a year plus all of the additional economic benefits.

Perhaps this is all a big walk-a-way to get Miami to beg Ultra back to the table. Perhaps Miami will feel the heat from the hotels, restaurants, rental companies, and clubs that stand to lose huge sums of money now. This might give Ultra some leverage with the City to come to a better arrangement for Virgnia Key or maybe even Bayfront.

7???

One Facebook user “in the know” has reported that Ultra’s new venue is “amazing” and “in the center of everything”. Reportedly three finalists were selected and the chosen venue is the best of the three, but nothing additional is known at this time. Could it be something we’ve missed?


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