Sun Life Stadium

Miami Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium plan calls for canopy, video boards and better seats

 
WEB VOTE Does the Dolphins' plan for renovating Sun Life Stadium sound fair?

abeasley@MiamiHerald.com

Don’t think of the proposed $400 million overhaul to Sun Life Stadium as a renovation, the Dolphins argue.

See it as a “comprehensive modernization” — and it will be done at less than half the price of starting from scratch.

That was the message Dolphins executives repeated again and again Monday, as they made their opening sales pitch for tax dollars to refurbish their aging, privately owned facility. If approved, construction would begin this summer and end in time for the 2015 season.

Newly unveiled renderings showed the team plans an upgrade to almost every aspect of its 26-year-old building — from seating and sight lines to scoreboards and a roof to keep you dry.

“This will put this facility in as-new condition,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said. “It’s not a Band-Aid. This will comprehensively make this facility competitive for the next 25 years.”

Added project architect Kent McLaughlin: “It’s ready to leap to the future.”

Here’s how:

•  Seats would be replaced and widened, with the lower level growing by some 3,700 people and moved 18 feet closer to the action.

•  Video screens, lighting and the sound system would all get upgrades, as would elevators and escalators.

•  And most dramatically, the stadium would have an open-air roof to shield fans from the elements.

“There’s this thing called global warming,” team owner Stephen Ross said during a meeting with The Miami Herald’s editorial board on Monday, and added “it’s like a torture chamber for Dolphins fans.”

The proposed stadium would not be air-conditioned, however. It would either rely on the natural breeze blowing between the top of the stadium and the futuristic canopy (which would sit like an umbrella on four stands), or install circulating fans.

The rehab job would take a little more than a year to complete and employ roughly 4,000 people — including 400 construction workers, McLaughlin said. Work on the facility would conflict with at least one football season but would not prevent the Dolphins from playing their home games at Sun Life Stadium.

Although direct exposure to the sun during the summer months has been a regular complaint of Dolphins fans, it was a freak winter rainstorm that gave the roof concept legs.

The 2007 Super Bowl held in South Florida was a washout, just one of many quibbles the National Football League has with Miami’s graying facility.

With threats both direct and indirect, NFL executives have made clear that the stadium’s deteriorating and antiquated condition imperils the area’s chances of holding another championship game, which floods host cities with millions in tourism dollars.

The Dolphins’ stadium is up for the 50th championship game in 2016, and the club is using the bid — which will be awarded in late May — as a carrot to motivate fence-straddling lawmakers.

“Super Bowl [50] will be one of the major statements of the NFL,” Ross said. “I want 50. It’s the marquee game. If we get his done, we’ll get the Super Bowl.’’

And if not?

“I don’t think we get it.”

Added Rodney Barreto, head of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee: “Right now, it’s like [Ross] going into a fight with one arm tied behind his back.”

The looming Super Bowl decision gives the Dolphins a convenient deadline, which they hope will create a sense of urgency in the statehouse and in county hall. But Super Bowls are just one of many events the Dolphins plan to host, should the modernization occur.

Representatives from the Orange Bowl and the University of Miami (which plays its home games at Sun Life Stadium) were also on-hand to show their support for the project. Also present: Ralph Garcia-Toledo, local bid committee chairman for the Pan-American Games — the Olympics of the Americas — which could come to Miami in 2019.

But Ross appeared most excited about a major soccer event to be held at Sun Life Stadium this summer, whether the renovations are approved or not. The tournament will feature some of the world’s premier national and professional teams and be broadcast internationally, said Ross, who said further details will come in the next month.

“Miami will be the home of international soccer,” Ross added.

The Dolphins would also use the improved facility to host concerts and UFC matches, if the proper licenses are obtained.

A water park with wave pools, slides and a snorkel area was originally planned to open across the street from stadium last year. However, that project has yet to materialize, with the franchise waiting to see what happens with their bid for public dollars.

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