Michelle Marchante/ Opinion Director
The bubble we live in makes it almost impossible for us to consider that FIU’s expansion to the fairgrounds might not be as beneficial to the Miami-Dade and University communities as it seems.
In the last semester, we’ve run many pro-expansion columns, with valid reason. FIU is a growing university, with about 56,000 enrolled students, and needs space to continue its academic growth.
To playing devil’s advocate, there is another side to this story.
According to our editorial, the reason why FIU and the Fair are still fighting all comes down to a legal contract—a lease. Under this 90-year lease with Miami-Dade County, the Fair is entitled to Tamiami Park until 2085.
This means that if they don’t want to pack up their bags and go, they legally don’t have to.
Only the county has the power to evict them, but as their 1995 lease agreement states, if evicted, the county would be required to find a location that the Fair considers to be of equal value, pay for the relocation, and reimburse them for any removal, reinstallation or improvements they made “within the Fairgrounds or elsewhere in Tamiami Park, or other County or Park property.”
Under this contract, the county would have to reimburse the Fair $93.7 million for its improvements alone, according to the 2015 appraisal that was conducted by Slack Johnston Magenheimer for both The Youth Fair and FIU. Now in 2017, it would probably cost more.
However, a 2014 referendum (which passed with 65 percent of the vote) transferred this burden. FIU now has permission to expand onto 64 acres of the fairgrounds, voters said, but the University must ensure that “no county funds be used for FIU’s expansion and the youth fair’s required location.”
But since FIU is a tax-funded state school, we’re not in a “legal position” to promise the Fair any money since Tallahassee decides the university’s yearly budget, said Richard Perez, a Holland and Knight attorney representing FIU in an interview with The Miami Herald.
So, if the county can’t pay it because of the ballot’s language specifically saying “no county funds” and FIU can’t pay it because of its state dollar budget, then who can?
Unless a mystery donor shows up, this fight will continue to be at a standstill and frankly, it just sounds too expensive: relocation alone is estimated to cost $115. 2 million to $32.3 million depending on what location you look at. These figures also don’t include the purchase of land.
Plus, while the actual Youth Fair may only come once a year, it hosts 70 events yearly at its convention center and shares a portion of its revenues with the county. If it’s moved to the wrong location, the county could lose a considerable amount of money.
FIU’s expansion, financially speaking, would only benefit FIU as more space would lead to more enrollment. And let’s not forget that tuition increases tend to be connected to enrollment.
So, is all this money really worth another engineering center or new dorms?
If FIU really needed more space, FIU should have accepted the 30 acres the Fair offered when it came up with the idea of splitting the land. Or perhaps we should take a page out of former University president Modesto Maidique and focus more on internal improvements than expansion. More dining options at BBC and tenure-track faculty sound like good places to start.
Read the other side: Our Destiny: take over the fairgrounds
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.
Photo taken from Flickr.