Miami Dolphins

Newly opened preview center just the start of Dolphins’ stadium renovations

Hall of Famer Dan Marino views the model of what Sun Life Stadium will look live after renovations on Tuesday, February 24, 2015.
Hall of Famer Dan Marino views the model of what Sun Life Stadium will look live after renovations on Tuesday, February 24, 2015. El Nuevo Herald

Tom Garfinkel cribs liberally from Apollo 13 when discussing the Dolphins’ stadium two-year renovation project.

“I’ve told everyone — failure is not an option,” Garfinkel said Tuesday. “We have nowhere [else] to play. It’s going to be done [on time].”

So far, so good. This week, the team opened its $2 million preview center, a joint project with Samsung Business that simulates what the game experience will be like when the $400 million construction is complete.

The sales center — with flashy videos, samples of the chairs, a replica of the stadium and a virtual tour of the finished product -- has already proven effective.

On the first day of 2015 season-ticket sales — when people who have owned ticket packages since the inaugural 1966 season had first crack at picking their new seats — the club booked 237 renewals, said Jeremy Walls, the team’s chief marketing officer.

The full renewal process will likely take two months because the entire seating bowl is being reconfigured; no one will be able to keep their seat from last year, because those seats will not exist in 2015 and beyond.

And the preview center’s slick promotional features will come in handy. Without them, you would need a healthy imagination to envision what the facility will become.

In the nearly two months since construction began, the sidelines have been cleared and nearly every seat removed.

“We’re on pace,” Garfinkel said. “There’s still just a few seats left in one of the end zone. All of the concrete’s being cleaned and treated. The new seats start going in in April. The new precast [concrete] starts getting built here soon. The progress has been rapid.”

The weather has cooperated. Contractors have only lost two days or work so far -- one for rain and another for wind.

Granted, that’s to be expected in the winter. But we’re only a few months away from daily thunderstorms.

“We’ve built in some contingency, but it’s a tight timeline,” Garfinkel said. “We’ve been working a lot of weekends to try to get ahead of schedule, to try to build up a contingency for those type of things that may happen.”

As for sales side, a common customer complaint is that long-time ticket holders who had prime seats will no longer be able to afford that location in the new stadium. The team is converting many of the best areas into suites or living rooms, whose costs run in the tens of thousands.

But Garfinkel argues that the stadium will still have more than 17,000 seats under $50, that 70 percent of the seats in the bowl have either decreased in price or stayed flat, and that the team is not charging for personal seat licenses, which is the norm for many new and renovated facilities.

“In most cases, people come down here and see it, they see the options, what the opportunity is, they get excited and they end up renewing once they understand it,” Garfinkel said.

The preview center’s bells and whistles certainly help. The 4,800-square foot meeting area features a welcome lounge, a theater room with renderings of the finished product, a to-scale model and more.

The club is trying to bridge between its historic past and what it calls a “team on the rise.” Highlights and pictures of the Dolphins’ current stars are everywhere — with one notable exception.

Mike Wallace, the team’s high-priced and at times unhappy receiver whose future with the team remains unclear, is not part of the team’s promotional push.

Ryan Tannehill, meanwhile, has emerged as the face of the franchise, and the preview center reflects that. He’s everywhere, another indication that the young quarterback is part of the team’s long-term plans.

Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback and current executive Dan Marino said of the preview center: “I got to see it last week, and it was kind of emotional, with the effect of the video and seeing the stadium, what it’s going to look like, being brand new and the tradition of the Miami Dolphins.”

Marino added: “I always wish I was still playing, no matter what. [But] I think it’s exciting, not only for the current players, but also the fans and the people that love South Florida.”

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