Where a reveler at the Miami-Dade County Fair & Expo sees funnel cakes and midway rides, Florida International University envisions student dorms and research labs.
The annual fair, which opened Thursday with its usual array of agriculture, livestock and old-fashioned fun, sits on an expansive public park next to FIU, which has long had its sights set on growth.
For years, the public university has eyed the 86 acres that the fair occupies at Tamiami Park. The land is owned by Miami-Dade County but leased to the nonprofit that runs the fair — through 2040 with extensions all the way out to 2085.
The adjacent land represents the most obvious expansion opportunity for a university that is fast running out of buildable space at its main southwest Miami-Dade campus.
Now FIU has the attention of county leaders and Miami-Dade’s Tallahassee lawmakers, who have taken on as a critical priority helping the university secure funding to strike a deal that would allow it to expand onto the fairgrounds on Coral Way and Southwest 107th Avenue.