The University of Miami plans to reduce capacity for many of its football games at Sun Life Stadium if the proposed stadium “modernization” goes forward, athletic director Blake James said Monday.
Under the proposal, capacity for UM games would be 72,000 for marquee games, but 52,000 for other games, James said. That reduction can be achieved by closing off upper end-zone seats with tarps, according to Dolphins chief executive officer Mike Dee.
James and UM officials are enthusiastic about the proposed changes, which could go into effect for the 2015 season, because there will be 3,700 additional lower-bowl seats between the goal lines, and some sideline seats will be moved closer to the field.
Sun Life Stadium has never matched the intimacy of the Orange Bowl, but UM believes the changes will help.
They “get fans closer,” James said. “It’s great for our program.
“It will create a winning environment.”
The announced average attendance for UM’s six home games last season was 54,252 — a number driven up by an excellent crowd for the Florida State game (73,328) and a good turnout for the North Carolina game (58,954).
Each of the four other games had announced crowds between 37,219 (for the Thursday night Virginia Tech game) and 39,435 (for Bethune-Cookman).
During a meeting with The Miami Herald’s editorial board, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was asked how the Dolphins’ plea for public money will differ from the Marlins’ when they were pursuing a new ballpark.
Ross pointed out that he would contribute more than half of the $400 million cost, whereas the Marlins paid for $160 million of their $515 million ballpark.
The Dolphins also will need funding from a hotel tax and a states sales tax rebate, both of which would need government approval.
Ross also said the Dolphins would hire mostly local workers for construction. But the Marlins also did that; 61 percent of the workers on the project were from Miami-Dade.
And unlike the Marlins, Ross said he would be willing to make available his team’s financial records. “You can look at them,” he said. “We believe in transparency. When you open it up, you get a lot more accomplished in life. ... I told the NFL they should have opened their books.”
Ross said the Dolphins are modestly profitable.
• Asked how anger about the Marlins’ payroll-purging could hurt the Dolphins’ efforts, Ross said: “I don’t know what they’re doing. … I’m creating a winning football franchise.”
Dee cracked: “I’m not going to use the name of the ballpark to the south” — referring to Marlins Park. He added, of the Marlins: “We’re aware of the angst that exists. We have to let our actions speak louder than words.”
• If the stadium modernization goes forward, the Dolphins will add a general-admission bar on the south side, using empty office space that was previously used by the Marlins.
• Ross said he’s waiting to see if this project will go forward before deciding whether to proceed with longstanding plans for a water park across from Sun Life Stadium. “We’ll look into the water park [regardless], but it’s best to do it together,” he said.
• Among Ross’ messages to The Herald editorial board: “Not to have a first-class stadium would be crazy. We have to act like a first-class city.”