As the Miami city commission deliberates whether to send a proposal before voters this November to let David Beckham’s Major League Soccer franchise build a stadium, we got to thinking: What’s Miami’s track record with stadiums?
The Miami Dolphins have done well with the stadium that Joe Robbie built in Miami Gardens in the 1980s with private funds on private land, and owner Stephen Ross recently put his own money into pricey renovations after repeated failed attempts to secure public funding.
The Miami Heat has also fared well at the publicly owned site where the Miami Heat built the AmericanAirlines Arena (although we’re still waiting for that park that the team promised on Biscayne Bay.)
But the rest of South Florida’s sports stadium history hasn’t worked out quite so well. In fact, the Miami-Dade County landscape is littered with the bones of sports arenas that either failed to live up to their billing or became outdated or passé.
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Miami went a little stadium crazy in the 1980s.
In pursuit of a professional basketball franchise, City Hall spent millions buying land in Overtown and then dropped roughly $52 million into building a 14,500-seat arena. The construction was steered by a semi-autonomous public Sports and Exhibition Authority and paid primarily through bonds backed by resort and convention taxes.
The stadium opened in 1988 as the Miami Heat’s home court. It began hosting the Florida Panthers in 1993.
But it was poorly designed and became quickly outdated, leading the city, county, and Miami Heat to partner on the AmericanAirlines Arena, where the Heat moved in 2000. Four years later, the city sold the Miami Arena at auction and then-Miami City Manager Joe Arriola lamented that the venue “became obsolete the same year it was built.”
The city sold the stadium at auction for half of what it cost to build. The stadium was demolished in 2008 with dynamite, becoming one of the worst examples of government-money mismanagement in South Florida history.
Bobby Maduro Miami Stadium
Miami Stadium, a 9,000-seat park later named after Bobby Maduro, opened in Allapattah in 1949 with a game between the Miami Sun Sox and Havana Cubans. It was built for $500,000 by former Cuban Minister of Education José Aleman with money funneled from the Cuban Treasury.
For decades, the venue hosted spring training for the Baltimore Orioles and Brooklyn Dodgers. A minor-league baseball team called the Miami Marlins played there in the 1950s. Baseball legends Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, and Joe DiMaggio ran its bases. In the 1970s, major rock groups such as the Eagles, Pink Floyd, and Fleetwood Mac played concerts there.
But ballclubs moved away in 1990. And Miami tore the stadium down in 2001.
Built in the 1930s, the Orange Bowl — originally called Roddy Burdine Stadium — was among the most beloved buildings in Miami by the time it was demolished a decade ago.
.The Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes played at the Little Havana stadium before moving to Miami Gardens. It hosted Super Bowls, college national-championship games, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna concerts, speeches by John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy, and even Cuban refugees during the Mariel boatlift.
The stadium was torn down in 2008 in what many felt was a demolition-by-neglect effort by the city of Miami, which would quickly go on to hash out an agreement to build the publicly financed Marlins Park at the same site.
Miami Marine Stadium
At the time a marvel of modern architecture, the Miami Marine Stadium opened in 1964 on Virginia Key as a venue for speedboat racing. The lip of the concrete, 7,000-seat stadium hung over the water, where bands would sometimes perform on a barge.
The stadium and the Bacardi Building on Biscayne Boulevard were the first significant modern buildings designed by Cuban-born architects in Miami. The stadium’s designer, Hilario Candela, today calls it “a celebration of water and land coming together.”
But the money-losing stadium was hammered by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and then, instead of repairing the structure, the cash-strapped city ignored it. Plans to restore the venue were bandied about for the better part of 15 years before city commissioners recently allocated millions toward a restoration. Those efforts are underway.
Homestead Baseball Stadium
In Homestead, the city spent $21 million building a baseball stadium in the hopes of luring Major League Baseball clubs for spring training. The 6,000-seat venue was going to house the Cleveland Indians before Hurricane Andrew devastated the area in 1992.
The stadium has mostly sat empty ever since, aside from a short-lived time as a makeshift police headquarters. Homestead city officials tried to offer the venue to David Beckham, but no dice. The city plans to tear it down.