Summer 2016 was no vacation for Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel.
Building a 672,000 square-foot canopy on an existing stadium with an airtight deadline would be a daunting undertaking in any environment. Doing so during South Florida’s rainy season is almost an unfair request.
(By way of contrast, look at what’s happened in Los Angeles, where rain has delayed the opening on its new football stadium by a year.)
So after that hellish experience, this summer’s $50 million rehab of the club and suite levels has been a breeze.
“I jokingly say that compared to last year, it's like painting the bedroom,” Garfinkel said before the Fins Weekend golf tournament Friday. “[But] it's a major project and a lot of work. It's coming along fine. I think people will be really excited when they see it.”
Ticket sales suggest he’s right. The renewal rate is the highest it’s been since Garfinkel took over in 2013. He expects all available season tickets will be gone by early August. The team anticipates to again sell out every game this season.
That, of course, includes Week 1 against the Buccaneers. The Dolphins will begin the season at home for just the second time since 2011. Opening on the road so often had become a sore subject for the franchise, which asked the league to address it this year. The Dolphins got their wish.
“We didn't get everything we asked for, but you never do,” Garfinkel said. “It's not a perfect science. We got some of the main things. ... You get your schedule and you go play the games and try to win them all. We're happy with the way the schedule worked out, for sure.”
The stadium will be ready for guests long before Sept. 10. Hard Rock is hosting a number of massive concerts and soccer matches this summer, including a friendly between rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona FC on July 29. The cheapest ticket for El Clasico on the secondary market is $400 — a sign of just how strong this soccer market can be when presented with an elite product.
The players won’t be quite as good with David Beckham’s Miami MLS venture, which is looking more likely to come to fruition.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross never showed much interest in getting involved in the MLS project. But Garfinkel said Ross’ franchise will welcome its new neighbors, if indeed MLS comes to town.
“I think for sports fans, Miami's a big market with a lot of opportunities, and there's certainly a lot of soccer fans here,” Garfinkel said. “To have the Clasico here in the United States is a fantastic thing. We're going to stay the course with international soccer and bringing in the greatest players in the world like [Cristiano] Ronaldo and Messi and Neymar, and hope that fans respond to that. If the MLS comes in here and comes in downtown, we wish them well and hope they do well for all the fans in Miami."
The Dolphins, of course, are Garfinkel’s primary focus. The team’s on-field success makes the job far easier.
“I can say that Adam Gase is a fantastic leader,” Garfinkel said. “He's a fantastic coach. He's changed the culture in that building dramatically. This is a person who's very intelligent, extremely competitive. ... I think Adam is doing a fantastic job and everybody's really excited about the season coming up right now.”