Robert Barron, Marc Shuster Ink Deal With FIU, Royal Caribbean For $20 Million Theater

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Robert Barron and Marc Shuster
Robert Barron and Marc Shuster

Dealmakers:Robert Barron and Marc Shuster

The Deal: The Berger Singerman attorneys helped arrange a public-private partnership between Florida International University and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which will lead to the construction of a $20 million dramatic arts center.

Details: For a few years, Miami-based cruise ship operator Royal Caribbean had been looking to move out of its staff training facilities in Hollywood. The current digs were too cramped to hold the kind of productions the company's onboard performers need to rehearse while on shore. But instead of signing a new lease or constructing a private theater, Royal signed an agreement Dec. 10 to build the $20 million center at FIU's Biscayne Bay campus. The opening is slated for January 2015.

In exchange for building the 130,000-square-foot theater and event space, Royal Caribbean will hold a long-term lease on the property, said the attorneys who helped arrange the deal. The arrangement envisions "seamless co-use" of the event space by both Royal Caribbean performers and FIU drama students, Shuster said. It also creates a Royal Caribbean internship program for FIU students in the school's hospitality, management and performing arts programs.

"Royal is going to be using the facilities full-time for training, but the idea is that everybody is going to be using it with one another," he said.

Shuster and Barron noted the idea for the center was a few years in the making but, even though both sides were motivated to make it happen, the nuances of inking a deal between a private corporation and a state entity needed to be addressed. For example, the insurance options for a public university are different from those available to a corporation, which has to be taken into account when creating a hybrid public-private partnership.

"The risk allocation is different and the costs can be different, and the planning is different, it's not good or bad on either side, just different," Barron said, "You have to modify the expectations of each party."

Still, Shuster said the fact the partnership had been finalized had made this a "cool deal" and a harbinger of future opportunities.

Quote: "More things have to be done like this because governments don't have the cost structure or the ability to do it alone," he said. "My sense of it is that we will see more and more of these kinds of partnerships. You can imagine a public-private partnership where people participate in a program on how to build these ships. You can imagine a program dealing with logistics."

Barron said, "I think this will be a high-profile situation where the more progressive public organizations are going to be looking at it and saying 'If they can do it, why can't we?' "

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