Six months and 17,000 tons of steel later, Hard Rock Stadium is finally ready for use.
Inspectors on Monday awarded the Dolphins a temporary certificate of occupancy for their renovated stadium. That was the last hurdle the team needed to clear ahead of Thursday’s preseason finale and the University of Miami’s season opener against Florida A&M on Saturday.
Now the real work begins:
Convincing, as project manager Bill Senn put it, fans to leave behind their 60-inch TV sets on Sundays and come watch the game in person.
Here are two new incentives: a cheaper, easier way to get to the games, and a faster, safer way inside the building.
The Dolphins have entered into a partnership with Uber that includes a drop-off and pick-up zone in the east parking lots and a new tailgate feature in which the team provides ride-sharers everything they need for a cookout but the food.
Meanwhile, the organization is in the process of installing 167 metal detectors at the stadium entrances, an expensive upgrade that is expected to cut the wait time at the gates by a third.
“Obviously, we want to make sure this is as safe a place as we can make it,” Todd Boyan, the team’s senior vice president of stadium operations, told the Miami Herald. “It’s a much more thorough security check. We’re actually checking you from head-to-toe, and you’re going to have people who are much more thoroughly screened. And for the fan, it’s a much faster entry in the stadium.”
In recent years, the Dolphins screened everyone with manual bag checks and hand-wanding. That practice is going away league-wide. Magnetometers are already in place at all Major League Baseball stadiums, including Marlins Park. And now the NFL is mandating that all teams have them by the 2017 season.
The Dolphins decided to get a headstart and have the detectors in place for the opening of their rebranded and rebuilt home stadium.
Game security has been a top priority since the Sept. 11 attacks, but last November’s suicide bombings outside of Stade de France focused their minds even more. Security procedures outside the France-Germany soccer friendly prevented ISIS terrorists from getting inside the stadium and killing spectators.
The new metal detectors do a more complete body scan than the hand-held wands, Boyan said, plus they eliminate much of the wait time. Those passing through the gates will only need to remove their phones and cameras from their pockets. Wallets, belts, keys and sunglasses won’t set off the alarm. Plus, the Dolphins have bought more units than anyone else in the league, further speeding up the process.
Once they get inside, attendees will discover a stadium that looks nothing like the aging building that was so out of date, it had fallen out of the league’s Super Bowl rotation.
A few thousand fans had hoped to get a sneak preview of the building Monday, but the Dolphins had to cancel their open practice after drenching rain soaked the field. With two games in three days this weekend, the team decided to preserve the turf and practice at their Davie training facility.
Instead, team executives led local media on a private tour of the facility, showing off a massive shade canopy that cools off the grandstand by some 30 degrees on sunny days.
“This is a structural marvel, quite frankly,” Senn said. “It’s given us a brand new life for a long time.”
And by getting their certificate of occupancy, the Dolphins made good on their pledge to be ready for this weekend’s games.
“I’m always nervous about making deadlines but we always make them.” said Senn, who admitted he had “a lot” of sleepless nights “over the course of the season. You have new challenges everyday. The big thing is to work through those challenges and execute on a plan and make it happen.”