Editorial: Why Marc Sarnoff and the City of Miami couldn’t afford to topple Ultra
Ultra Music Festival usually takes places over a span of three days – six, as of 2013 – but remains relevant for 365 days a year. News surrounding the festival has dance music fans on their feet and excited for March — most of the time. The latest bit of controversy, however, was far less optimistic than the announcements of Swedish House Mafia’s finale or Deadmau5′ return. The two-weekend expansion that had been announced in October was found in jeopardy when the City of Miami’s commissioner, Marc Sarnoff, introduced a resolution that would’ve prevent Bayfront Park from hosting the festival’s second weekend. Despite arguing that “Ultra doesn’t bring a dollar to the city of Miami,” Sarnoff lost, and Ultra’s double-header survived the commissions vote.
But was Ultra really ever in danger? The statistics say no.
The man behind the plan to topple dance music’s favorite festival, Marc Sarnoff, quickly became public enemy number one in the eyes of Ultra fans. Much like Al Walser and his Grammy heist, Simon Cowell and his rumored reality show, Madonna and her drug references, or Paris Hilton and her Afrojack affair, Sarnoff has landed on dance music fans’ list of villains – only not for threatening the integrity of the genre, but for threatening one of its most famed weekends.
Sarnoff has had it out for Ultra; listing noise and traffic gridlocks as reasons to close down the festival in his latest piece of legislation. Off the legal documents, yet on the record, he has slammed festival attendees, estimating “about 70 to 80 percent of these kids are on some sort of mind-altering drug.”
“I happen to have an office in the Miami Center. We average about 30 people a day either urinating, defecating, or throwing up in our building, in the traffic garage” – Marc Sarnoff
How much power does the commissioner of the city really have over the fate of event? Let’s just say all the shit, piss, and puke in the world couldn’t stop Ultra from its annual reign. Why? Monetarily, these “kids” are urinating gold and defecating dollar bills all over Biscayne Boulevard.
Ultra Music Festival pumps millions of dollars into Miami-Dade’s economy – enough to staff an army of janitors to clean the vomit outside Sarnoff’s office and then some. The statistics from last year’s one-weekend event are astounding, and the economic impact from a two-weekend event would just be mind-boggling. Let’s take a look at Ultra by the numbers:
165,000 – The number of people in downtown Miami, not only for the festival, but to experience the greatest week in dance music, Winter Music Conference and all. At a rate of 55,000 people per day, the expansion would result in over 300,000 consumers spending their time and money in South Beach for 2013.
60% – The percentage of attendees from outside Miami-Dade County. These are tourists, the reason every hotel in Miami is booked a year in advanced for March occupancies. Higher demand, higher rates, and those in the business of Miami hospitality have more to be excited about than their costumers.
915 – Over the span of a single weekend, Ultra Music Festival supports almost one thousand jobs for Miami laborers. For a nation concerned with job creation, who can oppose such a statistic? If that number doesn’t double across two weekends this year, the paycheck for those already employed will.
$40M – Forty million dollars are pumped directly into the county’s economy. This derives from everything festival related – from equipment rentals to rave gear, and everything in between.
$79M – Almost eighty million dollars are spent in Miami beyond the realm of the festival. When Ultra closes at midnight Friday and Saturday, and at 11pm on Sunday, the 55,000 partygoers are looking for more. After parties and events affiliated with Miami Music Week and Winter Music Conference bring in the type of revenue that doubles Miami’s economic profit from the festival alone.
When Miami’s commission members kicked off their Ultra debate, Sarnoff was quick to withdraw the repercussions that would’ve doomed the festival. Instantly throwing in the white flag, Sarnoff appeared defenseless and helpless in a near-empty board room, in front of his few colleagues — all of whom stood ground, leaving their leader cornered. Watching the commission’s chatter via live stream, Sarnoff’s trepidation was clear even through the lens and a computer screen. The commissioner opened his mouth and before the conversation was under way, it was perceived that Ultra was safe from its wrongful fate. As for Marc Sarnoff’s “Ultra doesn’t bring a dollar to the city of Miami” comment — well, the numbers don’t lie.