Miami Marine Stadium
This timeline shows the history of the Marine Stadium. It also tracks our advocacy effort to restore the Stadium, which began in 2008. As you can see, the advocacy effort has been challenging, with many ups and downs. We keep this section updated with new developments. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Marine Stadium will not be restored in one, either. But after many years of hard effort, we are on track for success.
1963: Marine Stadium constructed and its basin dredged. The Stadium, which seats 6,500 people, is designed by Cuban-born architect Hilario Candela, then age 27. Its roof is the world’s largest, cantilevered, poured-concrete slab. The man-made basin (6,000 feet by 1,200 feet) is the length of the National Mall in Washington, DC. The iconic Stadium is built for a cost of $1 million; dredging the basin is another $1 million.
The land upon which the Stadium is constructed originally was owned by Miami-Dade County. The property was deeded to the City of Miami for the express purpose of the Marine Stadium. The deed of conveyance contains a reverter clause, which states that in the event the land is not used for a Marine Stadium (or related uses) then the property shall revert back to the County.
1964-1992: Marine Stadium hosts a very wide variety of events. Originally designed for viewing boat races – 17 different classes, including unlimited hydroplanes, competed there – the Stadium also hosts musical performances by artists such as Jimmy Buffett, Benny Goodman, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra, Dave Brubeck and Ray Charles … television shows including hosts Mike Douglas and Phil Donahue … Easter sunrise services including the Rev. Billy Graham … rock acts including The Who, Queen and Steppenwolf … political events, including Sammy Davis Jr.’s remarkable waterborne introduction and embrace of President Richard Nixon in 1972 … boxing and wrestling matches promoted by Angelo Dundee … even an Elvis Presley movie, Clambake in 1968. One of the largest, annual events occurred each September, the feast day of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, a celebration emotionally linking the Cuban exile community with its homeland that regularly attracts as many as three times the Stadium’s seating capacity.
During its last few years of operation, however, the Stadium deteriorates as the City shows less and less interest in managing or maintaining the facility.
Hurricane Andrew, August 1992: After the powerful storm, the City asserts that Hurricane Andrew so badly damaged the facility that it needs to be demolished. $1 million is requested and received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for that purpose. The city’s insurance company commissions an engineering study by Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH); the study shows that the Stadium suffered no damage from Hurricane Andrew but that it requires $2-3 million in repairs due to the lack of investment during the operating period of 1964-1992. After the SGH study is made public, opposition to the Stadium demolition organizes. The City retreats from its plan and returns the demolition money to FEMA.
1992-2007: The Stadium remains shuttered and, due to lack of security, it is vandalized and covered with graffiti. Various redevelopment plans – which usually involve demolition of the Stadium – are proposed.
June 2007: The City unveils the first draft of a Master Plan for Virginia Key by the planning firm EDSA. The Marine Stadium is not in it. The 200 people in attendance at the community meeting unanimously and spontaneously ask the City to put the Stadium into the plan.
February 2008: Friends of Marine Stadium is formed. The Friends group is an informal, all-volunteer coalition of individuals and organizations under the administrative umbrella of Dade Heritage Trust, Miami-Dade County’s foremost historic preservation organization. The goal of the group is to have the Stadium restored and operational once again.
April 2008: Friends of Marine Stadium holds its first event, a fundraiser at the Miami Rowing Club near the Stadium. It is held in conjunction with Team Row, an organization that seeks to promote rowing among Greater Miami’s youth. The event sells out (more than 400 people attend), and the Stadium initiative receives coverage on the front page of the local section in the Miami Herald.
July 2008: Friends of Marine Stadium and Dade Heritage Trust propose historic designation of the Stadium to the City’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board (HEPB). The Miami Herald writes the first of 10 editorials in favor of preserving and restoring the Stadium.
August 2008: Friends of Marine Stadium debuts its website. Also, EDSA unveils its latest draft of the Virginia Key Master Plan. This time the Marine Stadium is included, although it is surrounded by many parking garages and other structures.
October 2008: The City’s HEPB unanimously approves designating as historic the Stadium, its basin, and an envelope of land east and west of the Stadium and all the way south to Rickenbacker Causeway. The City’s administration appeals the designation of the basin and envelope of land, but allows the Stadium designation to stand.
Fall 2008: Friends of Marine Stadium continues to build community momentum. Local and national magazines and organizations endorse the effort to restore the Stadium.
January 2009: Friends of Marine Stadium hosts an event: “The future of Miami Marine Stadium.” Fifteen promoters and organizations discuss their visions and plans to use the Stadium. The Miami Dragon Boat Club conducts dragon boat races during intermission. 180 people attend.
April 2009: The Marine Stadium is named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “11 Most Endangered Historic Places.” This annual list generates significant nationwide publicity, including The New York Times, NBC Nightly News and USA Today.
May 2009: Workshop by the University of Miami Architectural Preservation Studio on the Marine Stadium and Basin. The graduate-student class is taught by Hilario Candela, the Stadium’s architect; Jorge Hernandez, University of Miami architecture professor, and Catherine Lynn, Yale University architecture and design historian. Numerous ideas from this student class are ultimately adopted by EDSA in a subsequent draft of the Virginia Key Master Plan.
Friends of Marine Stadium hosts a logo contest for itself. There are 32 submissions, which are posted on its website. Friends of Marine Stadium also hosts a “State of the Stadium” shindig, attended by several hundred people at the Bayside Hut, nearby to the Stadium.
July 2009: $50,000 is raised to fund an engineering study to evaluate the structural condition of the concrete of the Stadium. Funding comes from a coalition of local and national organizations led by the World Monuments Fund, The Villagers, the Office of County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the John and Selene Devaney Foundation. The study will be done by Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger (SGH), the same firm that did the Stadium study in 1993.
The Stadium is named to the Florida Trust For Historic Designation’s “11 Most Endangered” list.
September 2009: Jimmy Buffett records a video endorsement for Friends of Marine Stadium. This generates significant press and community excitement.
October 2009: The World Monuments Fund, the foremost global organization devoted to the preservation of architectural and cultural sites, names the Stadium to its 2010 Watch List (significant sites which are endangered), along with places such as Machu Picchu, the historic center of Buenos Aires, the City of Old Jerusalem, and Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. There is significant additional press including an article by the Associated Press, which is syndicated nationwide. Web traffic, which has been rising steadily, spikes in October.
The Miami City Commission is presented the latest version of EDSA’s Virginia Key Master Plan. The plan, which incorporates many ideas from UM’s Architectural Preservation Studio workshop, reduces significantly the amount of building around the Stadium and eliminates proposed permanent docks in the basin. The Commission defers action on the Master Plan and requests that the plan return to the Commission in May 2010. The City administration drops its appeal of the historic designation of the Stadium basin and envelope of land surrounding the Stadium.
November 2009: Tomas Regalado is elected Mayor of Miami and makes restoration of the Stadium a priority of his administration.
February 2010: World Monuments Fund and Friends of Marine Stadium announce results of the engineering analysis done by SGH. The study estimates the cost of the concrete restoration to be between $5.5-$8.5 million, depending upon how much additional work is done to extend the life of the Stadium structure. This compares to a report prepared for the City in 2008 that estimated the cost of concrete restoration to be as high as $15 million. SGH recommends that an additional study be done to examine the condition of the piles near the water’s edge and under the land. The SGH figure is for concrete restoration only and does not include other items such as bathrooms, new seats, plumbing, electrical or any other Stadium renovations and/or improvements.
April 2010: The Miami-Dade County Commission approves $3 million for restoration of the Stadium. The funding will not be available until all other funding has been secured. All of the commissioners spoke about events that they attended at the Stadium and the importance of the Stadium to the broader community. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado attended the public hearing and spoke in favor of the funding.
July 2010: The Miami City Commission approves the Virginia Key Master Plan by a unanimous vote. The plan, which includes the Stadium and basin, was based significantly on UM’s Architectural Preservation Studio workshop in Spring 2010 led by Friends of Marine Stadium co-founder Jorge Hernandez and Hilario Candela, the Stadium’s architect. The studio worked with a coalition of groups led by the Urban Environment League of Miami, the City of Miami Planning Department and the City administration. It makes the Stadium the centerpiece of redevelopment for Virginia Key. The plan does not include any money – but it is a clear road map for the future of the entire island and a very important step in the ongoing efforts to restore the Stadium.
September 2010: The Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) Commission approves an expenditure of $175,000 for an analysis, design and permit study to evaluate the water’s-edge pilings of the Stadium and the portion of the structure that is immediately above the water. This amount must be matched in order to be utilized. If the study is successfully completed, the City could apply to FIND at a future date for funding of a portion of the actual restoration work.
November 2010: The Miami City Commission approves an expenditure of $175,000 for the pilings study, matching the FIND grant.
February 2011: Friends of Marine Stadium announces a contest to design a new floating stage for the Stadium. The contest is administered by DawnTown, a Miami-based group that sponsors international architectural design competitions and is co-sponsored by the Miami chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
May 2011: The winner and semi-finalists of the floating stage design contest are announced at an awards ceremony held at the Rusty Pelican restaurant near the Stadium. All 90 contest entries – many of them international – are on display. The event is attended by 175 people, including Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado. The event receives significant press attention.
July-August 2011: Friends of Miami Marine Stadium receives its 501(c)(3) designation by the Internal Revenue Service, making it qualified to accept tax-deductible contributions. The first effort to negotiate an agreement with the City of Miami regarding development of the Stadium and adjacent area is not successful; work continues with an expected date for an agreement in Fall 2011. The Miami Herald writes its sixth editorial in favor of the restoration of the Stadium.
January 2012: The Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority (MSEA), a City agency, approves a memorandum of understanding (MOU), the first step in the creation of a collaboration among Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, MSEA and the Miami City Commission to restore the Stadium. The Miami Herald writes its seventh editorial in favor of the restoration of the Stadium, in accord with the MOU.
February 2012: Robert Hammond and Phil Aarons, co-founder and founding chair of The High Line (world-renown linear park in New York City), make a presentation at the UM School of Architecture: “The High Line, New York’s Park In The Sky: Lessons for Miami Marine Stadium.” The event, which was initiated and co-sponsored by Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, is preceded by a morning press conference at the Stadium featuring Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado; Hammond and Aarons; Bonnie Burnham, president of The World Monuments Fund, and various local elected officials.
That evening Jack Meyer, engineer of the Stadium during its construction, is honored by Friends of Miami Marine Stadium during a sold-out event (160 people) at the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club. The event features speakers from various engineering organizations, Mayor Tomas Regalado, the chair of the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida (Meyer was graduated from there in 1949), and members of Biscayne Bay Yacht Club.
March 2012: The Miami City Commission approves the MOU among Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, MSEA and the City. According to its terms, Friends of Miami Marine Stadium must submit a business plan for the renovation of the Stadium within six months and a raise the funds necessary for the restoration within two years.
The Stadium is named to the National Treasures list of the National Trust For Historic Preservation. For each National Treasure, the National Trust creates a campaign that taps expert resources across the organization, including preservation, advocacy, legal, marketing and fundraising. This is a very exclusive program: Only 22 sites across the United States previously been selected for inclusion on the list.
April 2012: The National Trust for Historic Preservation awards a $50,000 grant to Friends of Miami Marine Stadium for planning purposes.
December 2012: The Miami Marine Stadium Steering Committee, an advisory group appointed by the Miami city manager, unanimously approves a proposed Stadium site plan, called “Marine Stadium Park,” as recommended by Friends of Miami Marine Stadium. The site plan then goes to the Miami City Commission and MSEA for review, as specifically required by the MOU. Friends of Miami Marine Stadium has a very successful showing during Art Basel in Miami Beach. An exhibit of photographs of the Stadium by Jay Koenigsberg is displayed at the National Hotel to kick off Art Basel. 200 people attend the opening.
March 2013: Friends of Miami Marine Stadium makes a presentation of the Marine Stadium Park plan to the Miami City Commission. The Commission asks its administration to prepare a future agenda item that can be voted upon.
May 2013: Local resident and world-famous recording artist Gloria Estefan is introduced as the “voice” of Miami Marine Stadium and agrees to lead the advocacy campaign. The story, widely covered, reaches newspapers and media in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. The Miami Herald writes its eighth editorial in support of the Stadium renovation efforts.
July 2013: By a 4-1 vote, the Miami City Commission approves the Marine Stadium Park site plan. The Miami Herald publishes its ninth editorial in support of restoration of the Stadium.
September 2013: Tourism Cares, a national not-for-profit organization funded by the travel industry, announces that the Stadium will be the site of its next volunteer project in May 2014. The FIND Commission approves a $157,900 grant for a study of the Stadium pilings. This amount must be matched in order to be utilized.
October 2013: An exhibit – “Concrete Paradise: The Miami Marine Stadium” – opens at the Coral Gables Museum. This major exhibit, which features a full calendar of programs and events, places an important spotlight on the Stadium, its history and its future potential. The American Express Foundation announces an $80,000 grant for a study of the Stadium’s waterside pilings. This gift can be used to match the FIND grant for the pilings study.
December 2013: “Curiosity,” a floating sculpture created by the French art duo Kolkhoz, premiers adjacent to the Stadium in its basin during Art Basel. The installation is sponsored by Audemars Piguet and Galerie Perrotin and brings significant attention to the Stadium during one of the most important art fairs in the world. Friends of Miami Marine Stadium celebrates the Stadium’s 50th birthday with a showing of the Elvis Presley movie Clambake and a clambake-paella party at the Coral Gables Museum.
January 2014: The “Concrete Paradise” exhibit at the Coral Gables Museum closes with a sold-out benefit event featuring Gloria Estefan and Jimmy Buffett.
March 2014: A smaller version of “Concrete Paradise” opens at downtown Miami’s History Miami Museum.
May 2014: Tourism Cares conducts its previously announced volunteer day at the Stadium and Virginia Key more broadly. Some 340 tourism professionals from around the United States participate. They fill four dumpsters of trash from the Stadium site and plant 800 trees and 11,000 sea oats on Virginia Key. This gives tremendous visibility to the tourism industry nationwide. The Florida Legislature approves $1 million for the Stadium restoration efforts.
June 2014: “A Day of Art and Action” occurs at the Stadium. Gloria Estefan announces a $500,000 donation toward the restoration efforts. Nine street artists paint murals at the Stadium and the “Art History Mural Project” is unveiled. Through this project, limited edition prints will be sold of murals painted at the Stadium. There also is a press conference and the day’s events are recorded by 50 Instagram bloggers.
July 2014: The PBS News Hour features a 7½-minute report on the Stadium’s restoration plans. The national broadcast includes an interview with Stadium architect Hilario Candela.
September 2014: The Getty Foundation announces a $180,000 grant to examine issues pertaining to the restoration of the concrete at the Stadium. Other grant recipients include the Sydney Opera House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, and an apartment building in Paris designed by Le Corbusier. The R. Kirk Landon Foundation announces a $210,000 grant in support of Stadium restoration efforts.
November 2014: A majority of the board of directors of Friends of Miami Marine Stadium embraces a Miami developer’s privately-presented proposition for a commercially intense development, including construction of a Maritime Center, at the Stadium site. The proposal then is presented publicly to the Miami City Commission, which rejects it unanimously. Various board members and officers quietly resign from Friends of Miami Marine Stadium.
December 2014: The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Gloria Estefan criticize the proposal put forward by Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, and withdraw their support for the group.
January 2015: The City of Miami expresses its intent to enter into an agreement with the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) to bring the Miami International Boat Show to the Stadium site, beginning in 2016. The City agrees to make the necessary site improvements (originally estimated at $16 million, later increasing to $20 million).
February 2015: The Village of Key Biscayne sues the City of Miami over the Miami Boat Show. The litigation alleges that the show will create massive traffic and environmental problems adverse to the village, and that the Stadium deed and the Virginia Key Master Plan would be violated if the show were to occur. Key Biscayne affirms its support for the Stadium restoration – but not for the Boat Show.
July 2015: The City of Miami issues a revocable license to NMMA to bring the 2016 Miami International Boat Show to the Stadium site.
August 2015: A new group, Restore Marine Stadium, is created by former members of Friends of Miami Marine Stadium who did not support the redevelopment plan presented last November. It is led by Donald Worth, since early 2008 the civic face of the restoration effort. The group launches a Facebook page. Friends of Miami Marine Stadium becomes inactive.
September 2015: The National Trust For Historic Preservation holds its board of trustees meeting in Miami. The Trust lights up the Stadium for three nights and reaffirms its support for the Stadium restoration efforts.
December 2015: The City of Miami issues a Request for Qualification seeking an architect/engineer for restoration of the Stadium and surrounding site.
January 2016: The Miami City Commission approves creation of the citizen Virginia Key Advisory Board, which will help develop City policies for the restoration of all of Virginia Key, including the Stadium.
February 2016: The Miami International Boat Show takes place at Marine Stadium Park. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Dade Heritage Trust each has a booth at the show dedicated to advocacy for the Stadium’s restoration. The Trust initiates an online petition supporting the restoration. The message: In 2016, the City of Miami must make restoration of the Stadium a priority. More than 2,300 signatures are collected at the five-day boat show; by month’s end, there are 3,500 signers.
March 2016: The City of Miami begins a study of the landside and seaside pilings. The study, done by Coastal Construction, was funded by the $80,000 grant from the American Express Foundation. The Miami City Commission approves the re-application of a grant from FIND for a more extensive design, analysis and permit study of the pilings. Total estimated cost of the project is $500,000; the FIND grant would be $250,000.
July 2016: Heineken, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, kicks off a crowd-funding campaign to raise money to remove and preserve the seats from the Stadium. This high-profile campaign consists of advertising, social media and major civic events. The Miami City Commission considers a $275 million general obligation bond issue, which would include $37 million for restoration of the Stadium. The Commission does not approve the bond issue, with several commissioners asking for more detail.
September 2016: Heineken concludes its crowd-funding campaign: $103,000 raised from more than 600 contributors, exceeding Heineken’s goals. The campaign concludes with a sold-out concert at the Miami Beach Fillmore with the band Schoolboy Q.
November 2016: The Miami City Commission authorizes up to $45 million in revenue- bond financing for the Stadium’s restoration. Those bonds have not yet been sold.
January 2017: The Miami City Commission approves a contract to hire R.J. Heisenbottle Architects as the architect/engineer for restoration of the Stadium and immediately surrounding site. Lead preservation architect Richard Heisenbottle’s team includes Hilario Candela, the Stadium’s architect.
July 2017: Heisenbottle – also the architect for the renovation of the entrance lobby and commission chambers at Miami City Hall – makes his initial, Phase I Stadium presentation to the Miami City Commission. Following extensive examination, Heisenbottle concludes that the Stadium can be restored at an estimated cost (including a new floating stage and a 10% contingency) of $45 million. The Commission unanimously agrees to proceed to Phase II, development of a complete architectural restoration plan for the Stadium. The Commission also authorizes Heisenbottle to pursue Federal Historic Designation of the Stadium. More than 1,000 persons send emails to the City Commission in support of the Stadium restoration effort.
November 2017: The National Trust for Historic Preservation announces the Miami Marine Stadium Seat Art Project. Seats will be given to local artists to allow them to be transformed into artistic objects. Photographs of the artwork created will be featured at an online gallery created by the Trust.
January 2018: The Miami City Commission unanimously approves a resolution to move forward with Federal Historic Designation for the Stadium and environs. R.J. Heisenbottle Architects executes its contract with the City to begin Phase II, development of complete architectural plans for the Stadium’s restoration.
February 2018: The City ‘s Historic and Environmental Protection Board (HEPB) approves the application for Federal Historic Designation of the Stadium.
April 2018: The Miami Marine Stadium is named to the National Register of Historic Places. The first boat race in 26 years takes place in the Stadium basin.
November 2018: The City of Miami issues a Request for Proposals (RFP) to select an operator for management of future events at the Stadium.
February 2019: The City of Miami issues a formal notice to proceed to R.J. Heisenbottle Architects to proceed to produce complete architectural plans and construction drawings for the Stadium. The estimated completion date is August 2019.
And in a television two-fer, on the same evening, both NBC and and Telemundo 51 broadcast updates on the Stadium reopening effort, featuring on-site visuals, photographs of events across the span of history, interviews with Heisenbottle and Candela and – most important and exciting – renderings of the two architects’ re-imagined Stadium facility. According to the reports, final permitting is at hand. The English-language broadcast can be heard by clicking here. The Spanish-language broadcast is at this link. (At both sites, viewers must find the microphone icon and eliminate the default mute mode.)
March 2019: The City of Miami cancels its procurement for the Stadium operator, announcing that a new RFP would be issued near term.
April 2019: “If Seats Could Talk,” an exhibition of original Stadium seats re-imagined by artists, opens at the Miami Design Preservation League’s museum. Sixty artists have completed their seat artworks. The exhibit is a collaboration with the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park Trust. Restore Marine Stadium goes live with its website, www.restoremarinestadium.org.
May 2019: The City of Miami issues a revised RFP for a Stadium operator.
June 2019: Heineken begins a summer promotional campaign focused on the Stadium. The campaign includes events, a contest and displays in Publix supermarkets. This campaign follows Heineken’s successful crowd-funding campaign during Summer 2016.
July 2019: Heisenbottle presents Stadium project renderings to the City’s HEPB, which endorses the ongoing restoration effort.
August 2019: FIND approves a $1.2-million grant for Stadium restoration, contingent upon the City obtaining all applicable federal and state permits. This amount must be matched in order to be utilized.
October 2019: The City of Miami’s administrative selection committee unanimously recommends the iDEKO/AEG Presents team to operate the Stadium upon completion of renovations. A contract must be approved by the Miami City Commission.
December 2019: “If Seats Could Talk” relocates to the historic Macy’s department store building in downtown Miami. The Miami Herald gives front-page coverage to the exhibit.
June 2020: The Stadium operator negotiations are cancelled due to questions about the RFP’s definitions for the eligibility of respondents. R.J. Heisenbottle Architects completes its restoration plans and submits them to the City for review.
August 2020: The Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously approves transmittal to the City of Miami of its $3 million grant, originally approved by the Count in 2010, for restoration of the Stadium. An interlocal agreement between the County and the City must be negotiated and approved in order for the funds to be transmitted.
February 2021: In its online edition, Sports Illustrated publishes an adoring, retrospective story about the Stadium’s history and events, which concludes with hope for its reopening (click here). The accompanying video features commentary by original Stadium architect Hilario Candela and restoration architect Richard Heisenbottle. The piece originated during the February 2020 Super Bowl in nearby Miami Gardens, when a SI reporter went looking for a “non-football” story about Miami and found the Stadium on Google Maps.
Donald Worth, head of Restore Marine Stadium Inc., is featured in a segment of former Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado’s popular 20/20 political talk show on MegaTV (click here). The discussion centers on the years of City and civic efforts to restore and reopen the Stadium, including the fact that Heisenbottle’s renovation plans are nearing final approval and that national firms who successfully operate entertainment venues are anxious to compete for the right to manage Marine Stadium on behalf of the City of Miami.