Miami Beach Bowl to make debut next year at Marlins Park

Six years after the Orange Bowl was demolished and replaced by a new baseball home for the Miami Marlins, college football is coming back to the same site in Little Havana.

The inaugural Miami Beach Bowl will be played in 2014 (likely Dec. 22 or 23) and will feature a team from the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East) and Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference or Sun Belt Conference, with preference likely given to FIU if the Panthers are bowl-eligible and available.

Officials said tickets will be $60 (premium seats will cost more) for the vast majority of the 34,000 seats (more seats can be brought in) and should generate $34 million to the city and county, according to a study conducted by officials.

“This came about 10 years ago when we started talking about a park here at Marlins Park,” Marlins president David Samson said. “This is exactly what we envisioned. This is why we are here. Not only is this a baseball facility, but it just makes sense.

“These are hallowed grounds. Where you’re sitting right now, this is where the Orange Bowl was and the tradition we have of college football, postseason college football, regular season college football should continue.

“It’s one of 210 events we do here on a yearly basis. We will be great partners. You will see that this community embraces college football. It will embrace this bowl game. I think today we’re starting a tradition that will last a really, really long time and that’s exciting.”

Signed to a six-year deal through the 2019 bowl season, the game is still in negotiations for a TV contract as well as sites for team hotels and other bowl-related events. With a retractable roof, the plan is to play the game with the roof open unless there’s inclement weather.

“Our champion could play in this bowl,” said AAC commissioner Mike Aresco. “We have maintained flexibility for our champion. We will determine which opponents are available in particular games, but this is an attractive destination and may well be the type of game for our champion.”

Claude Delorme, executive vice president for operations and events at Marlins Park, said there are only a couple sections in the park where views for football are obstructed (the home run porch and parts of the first-base line). Total capacity in the lower bowl will be 20,000, with 10,000 seats in the Vista Level (Upper Decks) and 4,000 seats in the Legends Club and suite levels.

“When we designed the building we designed it with soccer and football in mind,” said Delorme, who said the stadium could probably hold a capacity of 40,000 when bleachers are brought in. “We wanted to make sure it would fit in.”

Marlins Park has hosted soccer in the past. With the bowl game now in place, Marlins Park will be the fourth major league ballpark to host a college football bowl game. Yankee Stadium (Pinstripe Bowl), AT&T Park (Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) and Tropicana Field (Beef O Brady’s Bowl) are the others.

Delorme said part of the infield dirt will be removed and sod will be directly installed over what is left. There’s a strong possibility the stadium could host high school football games after the baseball season and before the bowl game, Delorme said.

“Now with this event and this configuration taking place I think it will make it a lot easier for us to consider those events,” he said. “Once we have the goalposts and benches and lines set up, if we want to do two other games we could schedule them accordingly. There has been previous interest.”

Discussions about the bowl game at Marlins Park began more than a year ago, Samson said. Nick Carparelli, senior associate commissioner for football with the AAC, said the new bowl game will work closely with the Orange Bowl game in cross promotion.

So, why call it The Miami Beach Bowl when the game is going to be played in Little Havana?

“That’s a good question,” Carparelli said. “A lot what goes into these bowl games is marketing and branding, trying to identify the game with the area it’s located. It was important Miami was in the name some way. We considered South Beach Bowl, Miami Bowl.

“Bowl games are really about the whole week of events. It’s an event that’s going to benefit all of Miami-Dade County. The national branding of the event that would bring the most attention to the area would be the Miami Beach Bowl because I think people who are not from this area [and] think about coming here for vacation think about Miami Beach.”