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Front Page » Communities » Miami Marine Stadium champion looks to concerts revenue bonanza

Miami Marine Stadium champion looks to concerts revenue bonanza

Written by on April 20, 2021
Miami Marine Stadium champion looks to concerts revenue bonanza

The key to a financially successful restored Miami Marine Stadium will be concerts, says Don Worth, who has devoted much time for more than a dozen years to getting the stadium rebuilt and reopened.

Mr. Worth was one of several speakers during a virtual community meeting April 15 about the future of the famous concrete stadium on Virginia Key. Sponsors were Dade Heritage Trust and the Miami Center for Architecture and Design.

The City of Miami owns much of the island, including the historic Marine Stadium and basin, and the large land area surrounding the idled stadium, known as a flex park.

For several years the city had been working toward restoring the long-idled stadium, closed since 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.

Talk of restoring it was just that for years, until November 2016, when the city commission approved $45 million in bonding to borrow money to fund stadium renovation and other improvements.

The restoration became real in January 2017 when the commission hired R.J. Heisenbottle Architects for architectural and engineering services related to the stadium.

The Heisenbottle firm has estimated the cost to restore the Virginia Key landmark is around $48 million.

City leaders have yet to procure a general contractor for the restoration. Attendees of the on-line event were told the city has an ongoing facility feasibility study focused on the stadium.

Work on the architectural design and necessary permitting has continued and the city commission did approve necessary rezoning to allow the site to once again be a place of assembly.

Richard J. Heisenbottle is the founding principal and president of R.J. Heisenbottle Architects and was also one of the major panel members in the April 15 event. He detailed the history of Marine Stadium, its current state, and possible uses once restored.

“Part of our responsibility was also to program the building,” he said. “What is the building going to be used for? Who’s going to use it? We know we’ll have a contingent of A-listers, starting with Jimmy (Buffet) and Gloria (Estefan), to kick off the stadium and because of its uniqueness I’m sure we’ll have a continuous list of A-list talent that will want to use the stadium to showcase their talent and perform.

“But there are other uses that the stadium could have that have a deeper and perhaps more important effect on the public as a whole,” he said.

In 2017 a community charrette brainstormed other possible uses for a restored stadium, he noted.

“We identified that marine and boating-related uses were key to the success of the stadium going forward. Sports and fitness made great sense for the stadium going forward. Educational uses and nature made great sense … Community events and obviously entertainment as well,” said Mr. Heisenbottle.

He said community events could include sailing regattas, jet ski races, swimming competitions, kayaking, trail jogging, some limited boat racing, exhibit games, drone races, Fourth of July celebrations, religious and political events, weddings, graduations, water shows and more.

Mr. Worth also talked about the future of the stadium, which originally hosted crowds attending high-powered boat races on the basin.

Mr. Worth began: “I think the economic feasibility issue is really the number one threshold issue right now. When people have objections to the stadium, they usually bring that up. Some individuals have suggested that Marine Stadium is a white elephant.

“And it’s true, the Marine Stadium was not financially successful during its 28-year run. This is a legitimate concern, and I’d like to provide some facts to suggest how this thing might work.

“The City of Miami operated the Marine Stadium for 28 years, and I don’t believe that government and municipalities can run businesses, whether that’s a restaurant, a hotel or a marine stadium. It’s a precedent.” He said the city operated two other venues – Bayfront Park amphitheater and the Knight Center – and lost money on both until bringing in a professional manager to run them.

“The stadium is a very complex building and there are very few organizations that can run it. And you wonder, is anyone interested in running this? … I can tell you the answer is yes, because the city issued both a request for letters of interest and they actually did an RFP (request for proposals) several years ago that they had to void for technical reasons (but) several capable and experienced firms responded with a great deal of enthusiasm,” Mr. Worth said.

He said he’s spent 13 years talking with promoters and event organizations and executives, brought in the best entertainment executives with national and international reputations to see the stadium “and I have to tell you their jaws dropped.”

He added, “While we know there is a whole range of things that can be done there … we know that right out of the box, the thing that is going to make money for this place is concerts.”

Mr. Worth said, “Stepping back, I see the stadium as one of the great venues in the world … I am more optimistic than ever that we can do it (restoration) but we’re really going to need everyone’s help.”

Mr. Worth encouraged everyone to get in touch with city commissioners and advocate moving forward to complete restoration.


6 Responses to Miami Marine Stadium champion looks to concerts revenue bonanza

  1. Follow the Money

    April 22, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    $48 Million? Taxpayers not happy about paying $48 Million. The $48 Million includes $5 Million in fees for the promoters including Heisenbottle, the architect/lobbyist. Yup. $5 Million in fees.

  2. Jon Warren Arthur

    April 22, 2021 at 6:07 pm

    I went to a Beach Boy concert pre-Andrew. Had to leave about half way through because the volume hurt my ears and I was only 50 at the time. Neighbors won’t like the loud noise. Key people won’t like the extra traffic. Not good for boat races because of wake that cannot dissipate because of the enclosure of the basin. But has significant architectural and historical value. Maybe will never be economically viable, but still worth saving.

  3. Jennifer

    April 24, 2021 at 11:02 am

    This is completely ridiculous. Does anyone remember Ultra Music Festival when they tried to host it at the stadium site 2 years ago? It didn’t work, main reason, transportation issues. Remember the Boat Show? Taxpayers are already on the hook for the 22 Million dollar lot renovations that saw all the protected Mangroves and shoreline trees chopped down to create a “flex park” that would allow for the Boat Show to be held at Marine Stadium site, it didn’t work, after 2 years the Boat Show pulled out of the contract this year and moved back to Miami Beach, main reasons, cost and transportation issues. I live in Key Biscayne and trust me when I say, most residents out here don’t want this location to host live music concerts and we will fight tooth and nail to prevent that from happening. I’m not sure what the ideal solution is but it seems pretty clear that hosting live events at this site is not at all ideal, for anyone. In the end, if I had to guess they’re going to turn it into a dry storage/marina/public boat ramp and that’s just fine by us out here on the Key. Let the locals use it, after all, for years to come we’re the ones who will be paying for these stupid decisions to allocate tens of millions in taxpayer money for renovations to a venue that just isn’t commercially viable.

    • Diana

      July 13, 2021 at 6:34 pm

      While I respect Biscayne locals input, all of Miami is invested in the stadium and all of Miami’s wishes must be considered. I grew up in Miami when the stadium was in its heyday and it is my absolute most favorite place in Miami and all of the world. I worry it will become in someways unrecognizable when it it is “restored” but it MUST be saved and given back to the people.

  4. William

    April 27, 2021 at 3:41 pm

    I hope they save it. City of Miami will always find a way to screw it up, but It is a wonderful venue. Hope they make it work somehow.

  5. Melissa Harris

    May 5, 2021 at 11:50 am

    To those that live in that area you can’t be so “Non-business” I understand not wanting the traffic and noise but I would be negotiating a property tax cut and turn the road into a toll road for non-residents to off set the extra cost to road repair and police protection. The stadium could also work on acoustics to direct the sound away from their homes. Utilize the stadium as a financial advantage for residents and welcome the business in a world that has seen the death of live entertainment in the past year and know this is a money maker as people crave live music and comedy that they have missed so much over the last 18 months. Letting these facilities to stay empty and crumble just decreases the property value and increases your property tax as the building still has to have utilities and be insured, use some common sense and work with your community to keep your city alive and valuable and not a high tax bedroom community with dropping home values due to high tax as your property tax is what will have to fund all the extra cost….