Would-be Miami Marine Stadium operators tell what they’d do
Written by John Charles Robbins on October 10, 2017
When it comes to a restored and reopened Miami Marine Stadium, major unanswered questions include: Who will operate the venue and what will it be used for?
Three groups showing an interest in operating the stadium gave recent presentations to the Virginia Key Advisory Board.
One of them, SMG, has vast experience managing major venues for sports and entertainment, including here in South Florida.
The city hasn’t formally requested proposals to operate the stadium, though several entities have approached the city informally to show interest.
In January, Mayor Tomás Regalado told Miami Today that the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins had inquired about running the stadium, as had global entertainment operators Live Nation and SMG.
The city is in early stages of a restoration program for the stadium, estimated to cost more than $40 million. The waterfront venue has remained closed since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Members of the advisory board recently discussed the desire to be directly involved in selecting an operator for the city-owned stadium.
Chairman Joe Rasco had suggested having interested operators appear before the advisory board to talk about potential uses for the stadium.
At the board’s Sept. 26 meeting, some members questioned if it was appropriate to hear presentations from possible operators at this early stage.
An assistant city attorney said they could make their presentations, and he noted that their information might help board members draft language for a future request for proposals.
“We’re trying to look at what kind of operations could be had at Marine Stadium,” said Mr. Rasco. “One of our principal tasks is conceptually looking at potential ideas … we’re not agreeing to anything here. It’s how the stadium could be operated.”
The three presenters included:
SMG, a worldwide entertainment and convention venue management company. SMG operates arenas, stadiums, amphitheaters, convention centers and more.
Palace Players Inc., a venture of Paul Hollenbach. He says he is a retired Broward County teacher who has a plan to turn the stadium into The Miami Marine Theater Sports & Entertainment Complex.
iDEKO Productions, a New York City based full-service events and entertainment agency specializing in helping clients plan and produce large-scale events and marketing projects.
Bob Papke, a vice president with SMG, said the company provides management services to more than 230 public assembly facilities including convention and exhibition centers, arenas, stadiums, theaters, performing arts centers, equestrian facilities, science centers and other venues.
SMG was founded in 1977 with the management of its first facility, the Louisiana Superdome.
Today the company manages nine NFL stadiums (including Soldier Field in Chicago), 70 convention centers, 63 theaters and performing arts centers and more, he said.
In Miami, SMG manages the James L. Knight Convention Center, also known as the Miami Convention Center, for the City of Miami.
“We’d like to share our vision for what Marine Stadium could be,” Mr. Papke said.
“We work for you: The City of Miami. The goals and objectives for Marine Stadium are yours. Our job is to implement them. What the stadium is going to be is a decision the community makes.
“What we see there is a very interesting canvas to paint on. There is great opportunity for concerts … the success of the [Miami International Boat Show] there shows the property lends itself to a variety of events, small and big,” he said.
Mr. Papke said other important factors are the retention of and improvements to community access to the site, and there should be a conversation about environmental protections on the property.
Mr. Papke said the venue could be profitable. He said SMG manages two theaters in the Los Angeles area that returned $1.2 million to the city in 2015.
“It’s your facility. The city and taxpayers are investing in infrastructure and restoration. It’s important we help you recoup that investment as quickly as possible,” he said.
Mr. Hollenbach didn’t speak much but played a prerecorded presentation about his ideas. He said Palace Players was established in 1974 as a for-profit company. He said his idea to turn the stadium into an entertainment and sports complex got the backing of city leaders in 1984 but the funding was never approved.
“This is a community-based project,” he states in the presentation. Under services he mentioned entertainment, Broadway musicals, concerts, television, motion pictures, boat parades and marine sports.
Mr. Hollenbach told the board he has investors for the venue, which he sees as a large outdoor theater.
Evan Korn, managing partner of iDEKO Productions, said the company is a “full-service experiential company.”
The company has 16 years of experience working with two mayoral administrations in New York City, creating and managing a variety of events on city property.
The agency says it aids clients through the entire event process from ideation to completion including planning, design, logistics, securing event permits, budgeting, production, custom fabrications and mobile marketing.
Mr. Korn’s focus is on interactive and innovative consumer experiences for the entertainment, corporate and hospitality industries. He is responsible for operations, logistics and planning for live event productions including experiential marketing activations and more.
Asked specifically about likely events at Marine Stadium, Mr. Korn mentioned working with the community on food and arts related events, along with concerts.
Asked about incorporating current user groups that take advantage of the stadium property and the historic basin, like kayakers, Mr. Korn said, “They have to be factored in – you can’t have conflict.”
A key to that co-existence is open communication, he said.
A restored Marine Stadium could host dozens of events from Jet Ski competitions to beauty pageants and more, according to a July report to the Miami City Commission by R.J. Heisenbottle Architects.
Richard J. Heisenbottle said his team and a dozen consultants were able to assemble more than 50 potential uses for the waterfront stadium, thanks in large part to community input.
The report identifies five categories of potential uses: marine; sports and fitness; community; education and nature; and entertainment.