Cable ski park pitched as global tourist draw
By Laura Stace
From the deep blue to the boardroom, a group of sea savvy business partners have turned their love of water sports and professional prowess into what is set to become a major Miami tourist attraction.
Chairman and founding partner of Colliers International South Florida Michael Fay has assembled a team of wakeboard enthusiasts to develop a $2 million cable ski facility at Amelia Earhart Park.
"Ours will be a truly international facility with pull across the globe," Mr. Fay said of the Miami Watersports Complex, which is to feature two six-tower cable ski systems and a two-tower system.
He said the 90-acre, kidney-shaped lake is so big there will also be room to utilize a boat.
Mr. Fay said when the complex is up and running, it will most likely employ 10 to 20 part-time and full-time staff.
The facility will be another drawing card for tourists, said Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO William Talbert.
"For the folks that want to do something different, this will be unique," he said.
Mr. Talbert said the organization will promote the facility in its materials.
The complex is expected to attract regional, domestic and international visitors, said William E. Solomon, chief of the contract management and procurement division for the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department.
He said the park averages 1,500 visitors during the week and 5,000 on weekends.
"It is anticipated that the number of visitors for Amelia Earhart Park will increase due to the Watersports Complex," Mr. Solomon said. "The number of visitors would be contingent upon the additional events and competitions held by the licensee."
The team has grand plans for the facility, and Mr. Fay said the driving force behind the project is smart business planning and a lot of passion.
He said he has the perfect blend of partners for the project — his wife Paula Fay, Miami Ski Nautique owners Henrick and Kim Laursen, attorney Juan Pablo Capello and former owner of Orlando Watersports Complex Rene Hofmann.
Each, Mr. Fay said, is excited and happy about where the project is heading.
The county commission recently approved the licensing contract with Miami Wake Board Cable Complex — which does business as Miami Watersports Complex.
Mr. Fay said the team is now entering the permitting process before construction begins, and he estimates the facility will probably be open by next summer or fall.
Right now, the company offers wakeboarding lessons at Amelia Earhart Park, he said.
Patrons can also enjoy a tube ride behind a boat. All equipment is on site and available for rent.
That business, Mr. Fay said, has experienced varied revenue.
"You make money some months, you lose money some months," he said.
Mr. Fay said he foresees the new facility being a viable venture for himself and his partners after the first few years as well as a source of increased revenue for the county.
"This lake literally has sat there forever with no use," he said. "So we've taken a part of a park which was being unused and turned it into an income producing asset for the county."
The park's revenue will increase based upon additional parking revenue from the special events held. The contract calls for a monthly minimum guarantee and a percentage of the gross revenue that will be payable to Miami-Dade County, Mr. Solomon said.
The licensing contract outlines that the minimum estimated revenue to the county is $840,000 over the initial 20-year term, based on the negotiated minimum annual guaranteed rent of $42,000 a year. However, if the licensee's gross receipts are between $525,000 and $1,250,000 a year, the rent due will be calculated at 8% of the licensee's monthly gross receipts.
Mr. Fay said the complex operators did have some options beyond the 20-year term.
The Miami Watersports Complex will join an exclusive list, he said.
"In the US, there is only about 12 to 15 really true cable parks even close to the magnitude that ours will be," Mr. Fay said.
He said cable skiing is being considered to be included as an Olympic sport.
"We would be direct benefactors of that because we believe our facility would be a mainstay for a large event," he said.
Mr. Fay said he had plans for the complex to host tournaments — like the ones he and his family participate and place in.
The self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur said he was a competitive water skier in the '70s and took up wakeboarding in the early '90s.
Years later, his son decided to compete in wakeboarding tournaments — with his dad in tow.
Soon the whole Fay family was competing, he said, and placing in major competitions.
The project has taken a long time to get to this point, Mr. Fay said, and he had previously considered other venues that turned out to be not quite right.
He said he talked to the county parks department in 2009 and they suggested Amelia Earhart Park.
"Right then and there we knew that was going to be a great park," Mr. Fay said.
Construction is limited to the north lake. The Miami Watersports Complex will be the only one using that area, Mr. Solomon said.
He said he didn't anticipate that construction of the project would affect park visitors.