Such a clever idea: Bring the Miami International Boat Show and all its watery bling to the hurricane-battered Miami Marine Stadium, which could use a little flash reflected onto its graffiti-covered concrete.
On Thursday, Miami singer and stadium-renovation cheerleader Gloria Estefan, her husband-producer, Emilio, members of Friends of Marine Stadium, Boat Show officials and Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado will officially unveil the plan, set for 2016. They’ll do so at a news conference at the unique stadium — the only one that offers a view of the bay from your seat.
More questions will be answered, and others will likely linger, about whether the Boat Show will stay in subsequent years or return to Miami Beach, and what impact the event will have on Key Biscayne and on traffic on the Rickenbacker Causeway.
But how fortuitous that the abandoned Marine Stadium was available to fill in as a temporary location as renovations get under way at the Boat Show’s traditional venue, the Miami Beach Convention Center.
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The ritzy tenant comes at a time when the stadium’s planned rebirth — begun by the Friends in 2008 and kicked into high gear when the Estefans came on board last year — needs a new jumpstart of public interest and funds. We commend everyone involved in pulling off the savvy deal.
The Boat Show at the waterfront stadium is a fitting turn of events since the futuristic-looking structure was built in 1963 for $2 million to attract speedboat races. However, that didn’t pan out. In the 1970s and 1980s, it became a concert venue. A decade of decay followed, then a whupping by Hurricane Andrew. In 2008, talk began of reviving the venue, where the Estefans performed before making it big. To their credit, the musical couple has put their own money on the line, pledging $500,000 to the project.
The Friends group and architect Hilario Candela, the stadium’s designer, estimate the renovation will cost around $30 million. They have secured $15 million in commitments, some public, some private, some from the state.
Not everyone agrees that hosting the well-heeled Boat Show is the best course for the stadium. Citing the need for public waterfront parks, long-time local activist Blanca Mesa wants to reopen the stadium grounds to the public, she told the Editorial Board. “Why not bring down some of those ugly chain-linked fences, plant some sod, install park benches and call the whole place a park?”
In a 1967 editorial, the Miami Herald agreed:
“Everywhere else along Rickenbacker Causeway, the people of Miami crowd fender-to-fender and blanket-to-blanket to enjoy the waterfront. But not within the shadows of the moldering white elephant that is the Marine Stadium… There should be an effective demand to end the insult of that fence and locked gates.”
The locks may soon disappear, thanks to the hard work of Friends of Marine Stadium and the Estefans. And if done right, the public will get its day in the sun.