Probably the two-most-common questions the Dolphins get, regarding their stadium renovation project, are these:
1. What the heck is taking so long?
And 2. How is it possibly going to be done in three months?
And quick answer for No. 1:
Never miss a local story.
On Friday, some of the roughly 400 on-site workers will lift and then, inch-by-inch, move a 480-ton queen truss into the northwest end zone. And that’s just one of more than 100 intricate steps it takes to put a new roof on a 30-year-old building.
As for No. 2?
The hard part, after Friday’s lift, will be mostly done.
“We’re through, hopefully, some of the more complex part of the projects — the corners, getting all the steel that’s constructed off-site here,” said Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel. “In the world of things that could go wrong, we’re through a lot of that and we’re still on schedule. As we get closer and closer, hopefully we get more and more certain — unless things change.”
That’s always the caveat with a project this size. But despite some skepticism among its fan base, it’s been so far, so good in the biggest South Florida stadium project since Marlins Park.
On Thursday, Garfinkel and Dolphins senior vice president Bill Senn — who’s overseeing the three-year, half-billion dollar undertaking (paid for by Stephen Ross) — gave reporters a tour of the construction site.
What they saw: A building that’s missing 80 percent or so of its 14-acre roof. But team officials insist what’s left is the easy part — or at least easier than the parts that came before it.
“We will be ready,” Senn said. “We have every confidence that we will be ready to play the fourth game here.”
By fourth game, Senn means the preseason finale — against the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 1 — which is the new deadline to make the building safe for fans. Even though the Dolphins didn’t ask for it, the NFL gave the organization an extra week to finish construction by moving Miami’s Aug. 25 exhibition home opener to Orlando.
“Not playing Game 3 and having that extra seven days is really just cushion for us,” Senn said. “We would have been ready and still will be ready to play by that point in time. We’re in good shape.”
A big reason why: Senn’s people have been blessed by relatively good luck.
The project has had no major accidents — “we have a great [safety] track record and we’re going to keep it that way,” Senn said — and have worked around the inevitable snags that come with an endeavor of this size.
An example: An engine recently blew in one of the many cranes lining the property and was inoperable for days. A setback like that could cost a week. But the crew had an extra crane on site (one of 12 used in the project) and didn’t lose any real time.
Bad weather isn’t quite so easy a fix. Hurricane season started Wednesday, and a major windstorm would shut down the project for at least a couple of days.
“We need a little help from Mother Nature,” Senn said.
Once the roof is up, however, it will be basically hurricane-proof. The canopy is built to withstand a Category 4.
As for the stadium’s eye-popping new features, the highlights include the video boards — which at 22,400 square feet will be the biggest in the AFC East — and the 357-foot spires, which will glow in LED lights on game nights.
“We have touched and will have touched every square inch of this building during this renovation project,” Senn said. “When you look at most renovations that have been done on other stadiums, they haven’t gone near the extent we have.”
▪ The Dolphins are finalizing season-ticket renewals, and are ahead of last year’s pace, Garfinkel said.
“We expect to sell out every game again this year,” Garfinkel added.