Sundays and football have been synonymous in Miami Gardens since Joe Robbie first opened the doors to his stadium back in 1987.
But beginning in 2020, the same might be true for the week’s other six days.
The Dolphins are considering moving their training facility to team-owned land just west of Hard Rock Stadium, multiple sources tell the Miami Herald.
The new complex would be privately funded and cost upwards to $75 million. It would be ready for use in two years and would give the Dolphins both the space they need and the proximity to Hard Rock that many in the organization desire.
And the move would finally put all team employees together on the same plot of land. For decades, ticketing and business staffs worked at the stadium while football operations were up the turnpike in Davie. But a growing number of NFL teams have decided to practice where they play, and the Dolphins see the appeal.
Dolphins coaches and players have called Nova Southeastern University home for a quarter-century, but the organization revealed months ago that it was mulling a move. The news was tucked deep inside the North American partnership’s proposal to FIFA in its bid for World Cup 2026, detailing plans for a new training facility by 2022 in “Miami.”
In the months since, the details have slowly filled in. The team is considering at least three possible locations: remaining in Davie, expanding in Miami Gardens or building in Miramar, which is just a few miles from Hard Rock Stadium.
Wayne Messam, Miramar’s mayor, announced in May a preliminary plan to allow the Dolphins to lease and develop a 21-acre plot of city-owned land between Everglades High and Glades Middle School.
That got the attention of Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert and Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan, who made their own pitch to the team.
Miami Gardens might defray the cost of security in and around Hard Rock Stadium to help seal the deal, and Miami-Dade County could amend the existing stadium renovation agreement that pays the Dolphins a bonus for hosting major events.
Annual payouts from the county are currently capped at $5 million; those limits and the length of the deal could both go up, should the Dolphins move their headquarters to Miami Gardens. The current agreement runs through 2024.
“Twenty-five years ago, the Dolphins moved their football headquarters from North Dade to Davie, and I’ve wanted them back ever since,” Jordan said. “When I heard Mr. Ross was considering a new $50 million practice facility in Broward, I knew we had to have a conversation about bringing this massive private investment to Miami-Dade. To me, it’s a perfect fit for our community and will bring a lot of economic activity to Miami-Dade.”
Added Gilbert: “From Top Golf to the Super Bowl, Miami Gardens has become a destination for world-class entertainment, and venues that attract visitors on a consistent basis are a critical component of economic development. Between the Miami Open and Miami Dolphins training camp, we can generate $100 million-plus in privately funded construction, hundreds of good-paying jobs, a significant boost to our tax base and new opportunities for residents to live, work and play. It would be great to bring the Miami Dolphins training facility back home to the 305.”
Should the Dolphins pick Miami Gardens, it would bring Ross’ total investment in his stadium property to more than $600 million since 2015. He spent a half-billion dollars on renovating Hard Rock, and is also funding the necessary construction to host the Miami Open beginning in 2019.
Building a football headquarters there would make for a crowded plot of land, cutting into the stadium’s thousands of parking spots. But with 10,000 fewer stadium seats than the lots were originally designed for and a growing number of people using ride sharing to and from the events, the team is confident that it will be able to accommodate the demand on game days.
Regardless if the Dolphins move to Miami Gardens, choose Miramar or stay and expand in Davie, a big upgrade to their football facility is coming. They simply have run out of space at Nova, as evidenced by the temporary trailers put up around the gated property.
That would not be a problem in Miami Gardens, where the team would build what executives characterize as a “cutting edge, first-class facility” that would be used not just by the Dolphins, but also by Super Bowl teams and even World Cup participants, should Miami be awarded games, as is expected.
The new facility is expected to include enhance fan amenities for training camp, including a grassy berm for seating plus seats within the indoor practice field. Additional features like a building for a sports medicine center are being considered as well.
But while a source says that there is cautious optimism a deal will be reached to move to Miami Gardens, work remains.
That has not stopped many in the county, like Bill Talbert, the CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, from getting excited.
“[The Dolphins are] coming home,” Talbert said. “We’re certainly glad to have them home. They belong home. ... They’re coming home and we’ve got the welcome mat out for them. We left the light on the entire time.”