A look back at the wild days of the Dinner Key Auditorium (part 2)


Published Nov. 6, 2013

Demolition on the aging Coconut Grove Convention Center, site of a future park, began in earnest on Tuesday. 

The center’s studio had been used for seven seasons by USA Network’s show ‘Burn Notice,’ which aired its series finale in September. 

Miami has said it would offer $10 million to a developer willing to build and operate a new production studio on city-owned land near Overtown.



Published Aug. 3, 2012

The producers of the cable television spy series Burn Notice and Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff have reached a tentative compromise that would enable the show to film a seventh season in Coconut Grove, the commissioner said Thursday.

Fittingly, it would involve a huge explosion.

Sarnoff has wanted to tear down the old Coconut Grove Convention Center, where Burn Notice has filmed for the past six years, to make room for a waterfront park.

But the producers begged to stay on the city-owned property, and even offered to spend more than their $240,000 annual rent to do so.

After a tense meeting at City Hall last week, Sarnoff made Burn Notice an offer: The show can stay at the convention center through October 2013 rent-free - but only if it demolishes the building at the end of the season and carts away the rubble. The demolition, which will cost about $500,000, would have otherwise eaten into the $1.8 million budgeted for the park, Sarnoff said.

Sarnoff said the proposal was “well received.” He envisions the explosion being written into the show.

“How cool would it be for them to blow up the convention center in the last episode?” he said.

The deal must go before the City Commission for final approval. It also needs a thumbs-up from the show’s parent company, Fox Television Studios.

Producer Terry Miller declined to comment Thursday.

Bob Lemchen, Fox’s head of production, said he was not aware of any deals, but that he was “optimistic” the show and the city would reach an agreement soon.

Burn Notice has yet to be picked up for a seventh season on the USA network, but the producers are hopeful. They reached out to city commissioners last month to begin negotiating an extra year on their lease.

The request met resistance from Sarnoff, who insisted he was ready to move forward with the park. Sarnoff pointed out that the $1.8 million for the project - from grant money and Burn Notice rent payments - had already been set aside, and that Grove residents have been asking for a park for years.

The green space is part of the Coconut Grove Master Plan, which was developed by residents, business owners and city planners from 2005 to 2008. It seeks to open up access to the waterfront with parks and public plazas.

Burn Notice moved into the convention center as the master plan was being created. The television show never planned to stay for seven years, but its producers sought lease extensions each year the show was renewed.

The annual debate between park supporters and Burn Notice supporters has been contentious.

Advocates for the show say Burn Notice has brought coveted film industry jobs to South Florida, and that the cast and crew pump money into Coconut Grove’s economy.

Supporters of the park are adamant that the convention center is an eyesore. They also resent the city for leasing prime waterfront property for so little rent.

Last week, city commissioners suggested Burn Notice relocate to a soundstage in the Wynwood neighborhood.

But Lemchen said the show was built around filming in Coconut Grove - and threatened to leave Miami-Dade County if the lease were not renewed.

Should the commission approve the compromise, Burn Notice could literally go out with a bang at the end of its seventh season.

“There no downside to keeping this show here for another year,” said Fabio Arber, a line producer for reality television shows who lives in South Florida. “It’s a no-brainer.”



Published Nov. 17, 1997

Even for Miami City Hall, it was a surreal scene.

A post-election, predawn Friday party took place in front of the well-guarded doors of Dinner Key Auditorium, while the loser in Thursday’s mayoral election -- Joe Carollo -- packed boxes to make way for new guy Xavier Suarez. 

Most everyone had a grudge to bear against Carollo.

It was an eclectic list of taunters.

Huddled in a subgroup of the 40-some revelers was an embittered clique of staffers who came and went during Carollo’s 15-month tenure: ex-chief of staff Arlene DiBenigno, ex-scheduler Cesar Gonzalez and ex-administrative assistants Nora Agudo, Marie Bell, Aurora de Posada, Patricia Gonzalez and Teresa Gyori.

Making merry as she waved a Xavier-Suarez-for-Mayor sign:

Maria Antonieta Odio, who blames Carollo for the troubles befalling her hubby, ex-City Manager Cesar Odio. He was a no-show at the post-election gala, given his previous engagement with a federal prison cell for his guilty plea to obstructing last year’s Operation Greenpalm probe into city corruption.

Ex-City Hall lobbyist Jorge de Cardenas, however, was not one to let a guilty plea keep him from the party.

He arrived with his wife at what will be one of their last parties together for a while. On Oct. 24, a judge handed de Cardenas -- also pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in the Greenpalm case -- a one-year sentence. He said he’ll check into federal prison Dec. 1.

The impromptu party had it all.

It had drink: the ex-Carollo staffers cracked open champagne.

It had dance: dozens line-danced to a campaign-ad version of the Macarena .

It had song: “Ding dong, the witch is dead” and “Nah nah nah nah. . . Nah nah nah nah. . . hey-hey, goodbye,” were the lyrics of choice.

It also had celebrity Carollo-haters.

Cuban American National Foundation President Francisco “Pépe” Hernandez came. His bad blood with the ex-mayor goes back years, when Foundation chair Jorge Mas Canosa challenged the then-Commissioner Carollo to a duel.

Also arriving was WSCV-Channel 51 General Manager Jose Cancela.

Cancela has been warring with Carollo throughout the campaign. They even debated once on a Spanish-language radio station. Cancela arrived at about midnight Friday — all smiles — then left soon after a reporter asked him about his presence in the Carollo-taunting throng.

“I was around just because my (TV) crew was here and just left,” Cancela said, before making his exit.

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