Typically we follow a formula when posting on this blog – extensive research leads to us providing the readers with our conclusions and opinions.
This post will be different. We will present only the facts. The reader can then use those facts to establish their own conclusions.
On August 19 and 20, 2021, the Miami-Dade Unsafe Structures Board issued repair or demolish orders for two structures at the Miami Seaquarium, the Golden Dome and the Whale Bowl. The orders were issued to the owner of the property, the Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation District. The leasee of the property at the time was Palace Entertainment, a subsidiary of Spanish theme park chain Parques Reunidos. On August 18, 2021, it was announced that operation of the park would transfer to The Dolphin Company pending county and regulatory approval. The Dolphin Company took control of the park on March 4, 2022.
What you are about to see is real.
Every word and every image is taken directly from publicly available documents from Miami-Dade County and the United States Department of Agriculture.
June 8, 2021 – USDA APHIS inspection
A and B pools in the whale stadium had areas of concern. A section of pool laminate on one side of the slide out area on the island was missing, revealing the cement underneath. Additionally, the blue paint along the top of both pool walls was warped and flaking off in several areas. Large areas of drooping paint (water behind paint) were observed within the interior of the pool approximately 12 inches below the top of the concrete pool ledge. The current condition of the pool allows for the paint and chips/flakes to fall into the water or be physically removed by the whale or dolphins and be potentially consumed by the cetaceans as they dislodge. A trainer reported that pieces of paint had been brought to the trainer by the animals.
The training pools behind Golden Dome Sea Lion had many areas of disrepair. Several sea lion and seal enclosures had areas of enclosure fencing that had been temporarily repaired with plastic netting that had been zip-tied into the existing chain-link fence. Areas along the upper pool walls of an enclosure housing two sea lions had flaking paint. Additionally, a large cement column within the same enclosure had an area where the paint had been scraped off. In an enclosure housing two seals, a painted doorway had an area of exposed wood that was slightly damaged that the animals had access to. An entryway between the outdoor pool and indoor holding area for several seals had a section of damaged wall. The rough concrete underneath the current wall covering is exposed.
August 19, 2021 – Unsafe Structures case opened for Golden Dome
CRACKS ON LAST ROW OF PAVILLION AND SPALLED CONCRETE IN CANTILEVER
August 20, 2021 – Unsafe Structures case opened for Whale Bowl
STRUC-A IS A 20,000-SF WATER STADIUM (KNOWN AS WHALE BOWL) WITH STRUCTURAL DAMAGE TO THE I-BEAM JOIST AND OTHER COMPENENTS OF THE STRUCTURE, AS WELL AS CORROSION TO THE STEEL MEMBERS SUPPORTING THE STRUCTURE
October 19, 2021 – resolution on change of leases
The Lessee is currently making necessary infrastructure upgrades and repairs to the Seaquarium including the whale habitat and stadium facilities to include, but not limited to: structural repairs as required by the 40-year inspection, paint remediation throughout the park, and water filtration improvements throughout the various habitats. The Assignee has committed to assuming all repairs should the assignment of the Lease be approved and is projecting repairs to be completed by the end of this year, 2021.
January 11, 2022 – USDA APHIS inspection
During an inspection of the Golden Dome facilities and pools, USDA inspectors identified an accumulation of green iguana feces at the base of a metal pole between two pools housing sea lions. The size and dark color of the feces accumulations was indicative that it had not been removed at least daily as required per this regulation. A clump of iguana feces was seen floating in the pool of an enclosure containing two sea lions. Approximately 11 iguanas were seen in the vicinity of the feeder pools and the show pool. Reptile feces is known to transmit infectious bacterial diseases such as salmonellosis and can be hazardous to the health of the marine mammals contained therein. Particulate animal and food waste, trash, or debris that enters the primary enclosure pools of water must be removed at least daily, or as often as necessary, to maintain the required water quality and to minimize health and disease hazards to the marine mammals.
March 2, 2022 – USDA license issued to The Dolphin Company
Because(1) MS Leisure has made the decision not to exhibit Lolita/Tokitae and the Pacific white-sided dolphin within the Whale Stadium, (2) the Whale Stadium is inaccessible to the public and the animals contained therein are not visible to the public, and (3) the animals in Whale Stadium are separate from, and will not be in contact with, the regulated animals at Miami Seaquarium, these animals (Lolita and her dolphin companion)are not covered by this USDA license.
June 6, 2022 – Unsafe Structures Board hearing (Golden Dome)
Mr. Trauth asked Mr. Spencer Errickson, Unsafe Structures Unit Supervisor, and all interested parties to be sworn in by the Court Reporter. The participants were sworn in at 1:58 P.M.
Mr. EiTickson informed everyone that the Board file jacket was being circulated and reviewed by the Board Members.
Mr. Trauth then recognized Mr. Spencer Errickson, Unsafe Structures Unit Supervisor, for his presentation.
Mr. Errickson stated that he received the engineer’s letters stating that the structure is safe to occupy meanwhile repairs were made.
Mr. Gorrin asked how old the buildings were at the property.
Mr. Errickson stated that the buildings had all different built dates.
Mr. Trauth then called on Mr. Robert Fine, Attorney for the Property Owner, to present his case. Mr. Starkweather asked Mr. Fine what time frames he was looking for.
Mr. Robert Fine stated that the Seaquarium property has new owners in the last 100 days that are eager to bring the property up to structural compliance with the County and Federal regulations in regards to the health of the Orea. He stated that the Property Owners are looking for a ninety (90) day continuance to both cases in order to allow them to get additional structural review done to determine the best course of repair and timeframes to request.
Ms. Riley suggested that the owners could consider moving the Orea to a rehabilitation facility meanwhile repairs are made.
After some further discussion, Mr. Starkweather moved for this case to be deferred. Mr. Naumann seconded the motion.
The motion passed by vote of 6 to 1. (Ms. Riley opposed.)
GOLDEN DOME PHOTO GALLERY
June 6, 2022- Unsafe Structures Board hearing (Whale Bowl)
Mr. Trauth stated that the photographs show significant structural damage and expressed concerns regarding the safety Staff or visitors.
Mr. Fine stated that this section of this property was closed to the public and was only open to Staff during repair and he was asking for a deferral of the item for the same ninety (90) days to conduct reviews.
Ms. Riley stated that she was concerned as well about the safety of the staff.
Mr. Fine stated that the area was shored off and has been closed to the public and will stay closed to the public. Ms. Matos asked Mr. Fine if there was any additional security.
Mr. Fine stated that there is 24 hours/7 day physical security at the facility.
Mr. Starkweather moved for this case to be deferred for ninety (90) days. Mr. Gorrin seconded the motion.
Tlte motion passed by vote of 5 to 2. (Mr. Trauth and Ms. Riley opposed.)
June 21, 2022 – Golden Dome inspection
Site visited. Property is occupied and power is connected. The structure is still open for shows and have the last row is completely blocked off. 0 permits have been obtained. No permit applications have been submitted.
June 21, 2022 – Whale Bowl inspection
Site visited. Property is occupied and power is connected. However, the Whale Bowl is not operational at the moment. Only habitants are the orca and whale caretakers/maintenance personnel. Permit was obtained for shoring.
June 22, 2022 – Whale Bowl
Received letter from Seaquarium Veterinarian stating that no construction can be performed near the whale pool due to health concerns for the whale.
June 28, 2022 – Golden Dome
Received engineer’s letter stating that, except for the last row of the pavilion, the building is safe for continued occupancy.
June 28, 2022 – Whale Bowl
Received engineer’s letter stating that the stadium has been closed for public occupancy and will remain closed until repairs are completed. The letter states that, except for the entrance at Bay 10, the structure is safe for occupancy by whale care and maintenance staff.
August 23, 2022 – Golden Dome
Received engineer’s letter from Mohamed W. Fahmy stating that the last row of the pavilion must be closed to all traffic and occupancy. The rest of the facility is safe for continued public occupancy. Repair plans are being prepared.
August 23, 2022 – Whale Bowl
Received engineer’s letter from Mohamed W. Fahmy stating that the whale bowl is closed to the public and will remain closed until repairs are complete. Shoring has been installed. The facility is safe for whale care and maintenance staff and for facility maintenance staff performing normal job functions.
September 21, 2022 – Unsafe Structures Board hearing (Golden Dome)
Mr. Starkweather asked Mr. Spencer Errickson, Unsafe Structures Unit Supervisor, and all interested parties to be sworn in by the Court Recorder. The participants were sworn in at 2: 13 P.M.
Mr. Errickson informed everyone that the Board file jacket was being circulated and reviewed by the Board Members and that he did not have a formal recommendation for this case.
Mr. Starkweather then recognized Mr. Robert Fine, Attorney for the Property Owner, for his presentation.
Mr. Fine provided the Board and update on the actions taken by the owners since the deferral of the case to begin the engineering review of the property and to determine the how best to bring any items into compliance. Mr. Fine requested that they be allowed 180 days to submit applications for permits as the property owners had hired new engineers to assess the extent of the repairs needed for the structure.
Mr. Ramirez asked Mr. Fine if the Dome was in use.
Mr. Fine stated that that it was currently in use but that the areas where the spalding damage was discovered were barricaded. He clarified that the public has no access to areas where damage was observed.
Mr. Gorrin asked Mr. Fine what was used as barricades to prevent the public from accessing the areas with damage.
Mr. Patrick Pearson, General Manager, stated that barricades made of PVC pipe were built and installed to cordon off the specific area. He also clarified that there was surveillance in place to ensure that there is no trespassing into the areas with damage.
Mr. Fine stated that they have been working with Mr. Rojas, Unincorporated Building Official, to make sure the property was up to compliance. He also stated that County inspectors visited the property to assess progress.
Ms. Riley asked why the property owners need more time that was requested as the case had already been deferred.
Mr. Fine stated that they had to fire the last contracting c0mpany recently, as they were not working at the standards needed and expected. He further clarified that they were in the process of hiring new engineers and this resulted in the need to ensure that they provided the realistic compliance timeframes ahead of the completion of the engineering review.
Ed Hernandez, Miami Dade County Parks and Recreation Open Spaces, stated that the County owns the land but that the land was the subject of long-term lease to previous owners and now was newly leased this year to the current owners of the structures. He also clarified that Miami Dade County does not maintain or operate the property and facility.
After some deliberations, Ms. Riley proposed for consideration the following ruling for case DC20210211348 U located at 3400 Rickenbacker CSWY Golden Dome: Reports must be submitted to the Unsafe Structures Unit for approval within ninety (90) days from today. Structure must be repaired or completed with Engineer’s Certification and Architect/Engineer’s sealed plans. A building permit must be obtained for all repairs of items to be completed. The permit documents shall be submitted first to the Unsafe Structures Unit for approval. The building permit must be obtained by a licensed contractor pursuant to section 10-5(2) of the Miami Dade County code within one hundred eighty (180) days from today. The completion or repair of said structure(s) shall conform to the Florida Building Code unless application is made pursuant to the provision of section 8-11(g) of the code of Miami Dade County and shall be completed within three hundred sixty-five (365) days after obtaining the permit. Completion shall be determined when a final inspection approval is obtained on the building permit. If any of the above conditions are not complied with, said structure( s) shall be demolished by the enforcing municipality as soon as possible.
Mr. Starkweather moved for the Board to accept Ms. Riley’s recommended timeframes as the ruling for this case. Mr. Naumann seconded teh motion.
The motion passed unanimously.
WHALE BOWL PHOTO GALLERY
September 21, 2022 – Unsafe Structures Board hearing (Whale Bowl)
Mr. Errickson informed everyone that the Board file jacket was being circulated and reviewed by the Board Members and that he did not have a formal recommendation for this case as well.
Mr. Starkweather then recognized Mr. Robert Fine, Attorney for the Property Owner, for his presentation.
Mr. Fine stated that this property was very unique and as such had many challenges that stemmed in part from the specific requirements that were needed for the care of Lolita, the whale which has inhabited the water basin area. He stated that Lolita’s health had deteriorated and that there were no plans for her to perform. Mr. Fine explained that no repairs can be made to the Whale Bowl as any vibrations and debris would further affect Lolita’s already fragile health. The pool part of the structure can be maintained to allow Lolita to continue to reside there permanently. However, the grandstands cannot be maintained in their current condition and has been permanently closed of£ to the public. Mr. Fine requested that there only be monitoring of the structure to identify if there is any damage or deterioration. He indicated that the owners would propose that if the Whale Bowl were to no longer be a home to Lolita, then at that time a timeframe of ninety (90) days be requested to demolish the structure. Mr. Fine clarified that the safety of Staff was the Property Owner’s priority and as such an egress area would be erected to allow staff to access safely care for Lolita and exit the area safely as well in the case of an emergency.
Mr. Gorrin asked how the structure was allowed to deteriorate to this extent.
Mr. Fine clarified that the new owners have only owned the facilities for the past six months and asked Mr. Hernandez to clarify on behalf of the County.
Mr. Hernandez stated that he could not speak to why the deterioration was so extensive as he had only been with the Department for a few years. He stated that these are unique circumstances and that the County, and the Property owners were trying to come up with a solution to a difficult situation, while trying to move forward with safety as the focus.
After some deliberations, Mr. Starkweather proposed for consideration the following ruling for case DC20210211387U located at 3400 Rickenbacker CSWY Whale Dome: Structure (A) must be repaired or completed with Engineer’s Certification and Architect/Engineer’s sealed plans. A building permit must be obtained for items to be completed. The permit documents shall be submitted first to the Unsafe Structures Unit for approval. The building permit documents (for proposed structural egress passage), and application must be submitted by a licensed contractor pursuant to section 10-5(2) of the Miami Dade County code within thirty (30) days from today. The completion of said structure (structural egress passage) shall conform to the Florida Building Code unless application is made pursuant to the provision of section 8-1(g) of the code of Miami Dade County and shall be completed within one hundred twenty (120) days after obtaining the permit. Completion shall be determined when a final inspection approval is obtained on the building permit. If any of the above conditions are not complied with, said structure(s) shall be demolished by the enforcing municipality as soon as possible.
Mr. Starkweather moved for the Board to accept his recommended timeframes as the ruling for this case. Mr. Ramirez seconded the motion.
The motion passed by vote of 6 to 1 (Ms. Riley opposed).
November 14, 2022 – USDA APHIS inspection
In Golden Dome stadium, there are areas that are not being maintained in good repair. On stage, there are areas with rough edges and chipping paint that animals may come into contact with; The ramp and staircase leading to the dive platform has two areas of exposed foam with rough edges of chipped paint. The front edge of the center stage has an area approximately 12 inches wide and 10 inches back with missing paint and exposed cement. During the sealion performances, animals slide across the stage, climb up this ramp and may come in contact with these areas of concern. At the concrete audience barrier, there is concrete pitting and paint flecking which sealions may also come into contact with throughout the shows. In sealion housing, there is flecking paint over sealion enclosures. The back of the dome’s stage has large areas of paint chipping and concrete cracks that are above sealion enclosures. Flakes of chipped paint and concrete may fall into enclosures and be ingested by the animals. Indoor and outdoor housing facilities for marine mammals must be structurally sound and must be maintained in good repair to protect the animals from injury.
January 18, 2023 – Whale Bowl
Received letter from Zvonimir Belfranin, PE, stating that the structure is safe for continued occupancy based on updated capacity (10 persons). The letter has been evaluated by the Building Official and is insufficient.
April 21, 2023 – Whale Bowl
Photos from the site visit with the building official. Shoring systems not meeting the minimum requirements of the code.
SHORING PHOTO GALLERY
- Instructions: Under license/registration type, indicate EXHIBITOR
- Type the following under Customer/Organization Name:
- “Festival Fun Parks” for Seaquarium inspections under Palace Entertainment
- “MS Leisure” for Seaquarium inspections under The Dolphin Company
Access to administrative activity timeline, charges, and photos are available through the buttons at the top of each page.
5 thoughts on “The Whale Bowl”
Omg,this place needs to be CONDEMNED, NOW….. All life being housed their should be evacuated,NOW. Shame on everyone involved with this,and keeping any animals in this shameful facility.
Paul Stuart: True that. It seems like a whole lot of factual information has been withheld by ALL involved with Toki (including The Dolphin Co.). Her life is in FAR MORE danger than imagined. If this report was presented to the powers that be to obtain all permits and build the sea pen in the Salish Sea could an exception be made to expedite plans as an emergency measure?
not all involved but yep & yes to all the rest in theory, for a few reasons it’s not simple. in reality, NOAA etc are unlikely to risk the lives further of the endangered SRKWs including Toks, remember she is still sick but desperately needs a easy to get intermediate tank to recover her strength safe from weather etc & stay tuned for more soon
Thank You 🐬🖤🤍🖤⚖️🆘🥊
is this like fake news!!!!!! seriously do they really want people to believe that none of this was “noticed” before they accepted the financial offer. Something is not right this didn’t just all of a sudden happen.