Fueled by the University’s “inability to meet the demands of the diverse student body’s academic interests and research needs,” words taken from a Student Government Council bill passed last year, FIU has had its eyes set on the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds space for almost four years now.
To sum it up: on one side, you have the University asserting that the expansion and growth of our campus is favorable for everyone, a win-win they call it. On the other side, you have the fair President and CEO Bob Hohenstein, still rapturous over its 20 percent growth in attendance, saying, “We are perfectly happy, very content, and have been successful at this location; been here for 43 years.”
The University, however, seems to have its hearts set on the 86-acre lot, and at times, has the composure of a facilitator of the inevitable: holding the hand of the mighty fair that uses the land only 17 or 18 days a year through a sensible transition.
“Fairs are kind of dying out,” Vice President of External Relations Sandra Gonzalez-Levy even said.
But now, the University has support from lawmakers in Tallahassee –– $10 million granted by the Florida Legislation for the University’s Strategic Land Acquisition initiative –– and a viable new location only 10 minutes away from the current Sweetwater site: Tropical Park.
It would seem that the stones are all in place, and the only thing left is for President Rosenberg to treat Hohenstein to a steak dinner and shakes hands in good faith.
But the University’s dream has a long way to go.
In the case where the fair says “yes,” county voters will still need to give FIU the green-light through a public referendum. After two polls were conducted ––one through Bendixen & Amandi International, a communications consulting firm that specializes in research methods, and one through the Office of External Relations –– the University is no closer to understanding how much (or how little, according to the B&A International poll) public support they will receive.
Former provost Douglas Wartzok attributed the difference in results to the phrasing of the poll.
Another question still a little vague is: How much will it cost to move the fair and who is going to pay what? The University was given $10 million by the Board of Governors during this past legislative session, but what does that really mean?
The relocation estimate, according to SGC-MMC President Alexis Calatayud, is approximately $30-$50 million, which would come out of FIU’s pocket, and the state legislature’s. However, the Miami Herald reports that the relocation estimate is between $200 and $250 million, and the cost would be shared between FIU, Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida.
And finally, at the core of it all, despite the University’s poise, the fair still has to say yes. A 99-year-lease through 2040 actually gives the fair the best hand, all of the chips and the choice of where to have that steak dinner.