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Miami-Dade County Fair and Expo may move to new location

Move to make way for expansion of Florida International University

MIAMI – It's been a sign of spring for decades, but now after being held at Tamiami Park for more than 40 years, the Miami-Dade County Fair and Expo might have to move to make way for an expansion of Florida International University.

Steven Gonzalez had been waiting since 8 a.m. to show support for FIU.

"Finally now for it to come into fruition, you know, it's definitely worth the wait," said Gonzalez.

Expanding to the fairgrounds, he argues, will provide educational access to many more in South Florida. The university plans to build $900 million in student housing, parking and research facilities.

"It's about opening the doors to more and more people to receive an education that puts them on a path to achieving their dreams," said FIU Student Government President Alexis Calatayud.

"What we're fighting for in the development of FIU on the fairgrounds is going to help establish great jobs here in South Florida," said Eduardo Hondal, FIU alumnus.

But advocates for the fair see it differently. The fair's president said a referendum is too premature because they haven't found a site.

Right now, they're considering three options:
--What they call the Beacon Property near I-75 and the Turnpike.
--Some plots of land around Sun Life Stadium
--And a site in Homestead.

If they go with the latter, fair officials said attendance would drop up to 50 percent. If voters approve to move the fair, FIU would have pay for it.

"It could cost up to $230 million to relocate the fairgrounds," said Miami-Dade County Youth Fair President Bob Hohenstein.

FIU officials think they could do it for less.

"The number doesn't include land acquisition, doesn't include infrastructure, doesn't include bringing utilities onto a site and making that site construction ready for a new fairground," said Hohenstein.

The Miami-Dade County Commission has voted to allow the public by way of a referendum to decide whether the county's fair should move and allow FIU to expand into Tamiami Park. The vote was 12-1; Commissioner Linda Bell voted against the measure.