Ultra looks ahead after transportation woes plague opening night on Virginia Key

Thousands trek across Rickenbacker Causeway after first night

MIAMI – Now that the 21st annual Ultra Music Festival has come to a close, organizers are already planning for 2020.

Ultra announced Monday morning on Twitter that next year's festival will be held March 27-29, 2020.

But the question remains whether Ultra will remain on Virginia Key after relocating from its longtime home in downtown Miami.

Transportation was a key issue plaguing Ultra's opening night, after thousands of electronic dance music fans leaving the barrier island trekked along the Rickenbacker Causeway across Biscayne Bay back to the mainland.

With no parking near Miami Marine Stadium and EDM fans far outnumbering the available seats of the shuttle buses providing transportation to and from Virginia Key, many instead elected to walk back early Saturday, halting traffic along the bridge.

Residents of Virginia Key had objected to Ultra's new home, concerned about traffic, noise and the environmental impact to the barrier island. In response, the city barred ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft from picking up people leaving the festival.

The fiasco forced organizers to make some tweaks for Saturday and Sunday.

"We made adjustments and it moved a lot better on Saturday, and it was even better on Sunday," Ray Martinez, chief of security for Ulta, said Monday. "We were completely done with transporting everybody out of here in less than two hours, which, I think, is really amazing when you think about it. If you go to a football game or you go to any kind of major event, you know, it takes time."

Most fans said after the craziness of the first night, those changes did seem to help.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez also reportedly had to requet that Ultra adjust the sound because of the distance at which people could still hear the music.

"The fact that you could hear the low vibration bass, I live 7 miles away and I could hear it at my house. It's something that's a big problem and it's a non-negotiable for me," Suarez said.

Some people worry that the negatives the music festival brings to the area outweigh the positives.

"This is an area that is set aside for wildlife and for the public to use and interact with nature," said Rachel Silverstein, executive director of the environmental group, Miami Waterkeeper. "There is an area just behind the Marine Stadium called the critical wildlife area that is so protected you aren't even allowed to kayak through it."

Before the festival, the group went out and collected water samples from the area that they are now going to compare with new samples taken after Ultra, measuring for levels of contamination.

At this point, their results are still pending.

Ultra organizers estimate between 150,000 to 180,000 people from more than 100 countries attended this year's music festival. 

A total of 35 people were arrested over the three-day festival for charges ranging from battery to trespassing to drug possession. 

Ultra Music FestivalFelony ArrestsMisdemeanor ArrestsTotal Arrests
Three-Day Cumulative102525


About the Authors:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.