Thursday, September 21, 2006

Miami's Shame: The Miami Marine Stadium

If you came to live in Miami after 1992's Hurricane Andrew and aren't a boater, you probably don't know this once wonderful vision still exists. Because of a report of stress cracks in its cantilevered concrete roof following that hurricane, the county shut down the public facility fearing the roof might collapse at any minute. Well, its been 14-years and, despite total abandonment, the roof is still there, a sad reminder of its glory days.

Designed by Miami based Pancoast, Ferendino Spillis + Candela, it opened in 1963 and was-- and still may be-- the largest unsupported concrete span in the world. That alone would have been worth the effort to repair the stadium. For all you "newcomers" and those who live someplace else here are some interesting tidbits on the stadium:

>The stadium was designed for hydroplane racing and it quickly became one of the most important venues on the circuit with the late great local Budweiser distributor Bernie Little winning race after race with his Miss Budweiser. By the time the stadium closed in 1992, hydroplanes were reaching 170mph. Now they have passed 220mph. Whether or not they can reach those speeds in this stadium course will never be known. As an aside, only one word can describe unlimited hydroplane racing at the stadium as the huge boats roared by: thrilling. If you never had a chance to see those unlimited races, to hear the roar of those jet turbines, to smell the salt air, and to feel the ocean breeze wafting up across Virginia Key on a sunny day, then you truly missed something. There was nothing like it in the world and there still isn't.

>1972: President Nixon made an appearance there with Sammy Davis, Jr.

>Jimmy Buffet, Tony Bennett, and a host of other entertainers and orchestras performed there on a floating stage for "moonlight concerts" in front of the stands. Boaters were allowed to drop anchor and watch from the water.

>1992: Declared unsafe after Hurricane Andrew.

>2002: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz promises to refurbish the Marine Stadium.

For fourteen-years it was neglected and left to decay by the county and city governments. In that time it has probably become the largest graffiti canvas in the world. There is hardly a surface not "tagged". It defines the word "trashed." The restroom facilities have been ransacked. To see it now and to remember what it once was makes you want to cry.

The initial structural report spoke of hairline fractures in the concrete roof and made the supposition that they may have been there before Hurricane Andrew. We're sure they are much worse now. If there had been someone around in government with enough vision, maybe it could have been repaired at a reasonable price. Now, the way construction costs have skyrocketed, the odds of ever seeing the stadium restored look slim to none.

It's been four years since Mayor Diaz promised to repair the stadium. We guess he forgot about it like so many others have. Too bad for all of us. As a community, it was something to be proud of , a unique thing to rally round and to enjoy. Maybe readers of this blog will get excited and want to remind Mayor Diaz about the diamond in the rough just a short boat ride from city hall. You can send him an email and other city officials by clicking here. In fact, you could remind all of our county and city officials about the Marine Stadium by clicking the links provided on MVB's homepage. Who knows, maybe one of them will want to save it. With a little vision, maybe money could be raised to fund the restoration by selling naming rights to the stadium. First one that comes to our mind: Budweiser.
UpDate (4/18/08): After a magazine article in the January 2008 edition of Propeller magazine, 10 posts on the subject, and one-and-a-half years after our first post, the Miami Herald reports today that "a coalition of architects, preservationists, activists, historians, rowers, boaters and plain Miamians who believe a restored and reactivated Marine Stadium would become an iconic landmark in a rejuvenating Miami" will be throwing a fundraiser this Saturday at the adjacent Miami Rowing Club. The event includes boat tours of the stadium. "The group, with the backing of the Dade Heritage Trust, will submit a study to the city's office of historic preservation next week requesting that the stadium be declared a historic structure." Even its architect, 73-year-old Hilario Candela, has emerged from 16-years of silence to back this endeavor. Maybe our consistent harangue was effective. We'd like to think so. We believe in getting "ideas out there" so they can effect change. That was one of the main reasons this blog was started. Hopefully the neglect won't make this new effort moot.
UpDate (8/20/08): The third public meeting for the Virginia Key Master Plan will be held Tuesday, August 26, 2008. The latest design ideas will be presented by EDSA, the lead consultant.

When & WhereTuesday, August 26, 2008
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.Miami City Hall Chambers
3500 Pan American Drive

For more information on the Virginia Key Master Plan, please visit
UpDate (8/27): The "experts," AKA city planners/consultants, came back with the latest designs for Virginia Key. Despite an earlier charette where the public overwhelmingly agreed that the Marine Stadium should be saved, it is glaringly absent from this latest iteration. In its place: Two 5-story parking garages, a "dry-stack" boat storage for 700 boats, 41,000sf of "small scale retail," and Olympic-sized swimming pools among other sundry items. The city and its experts have effectively destroyed one of the few things that makes Miami unique in the world and replaced it with the pedestrian. The Marine Stadium was the only one of its kind on the planet. Now, because it might be "cost prohibitive" to fix-up, we have become a lesser city, less unique, and a people less worthy of being taken seriously, at being looked upon by others as blessed, lucky, special and cool.

UpDate (9/19/08): Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium pulled off a major coup: they got the World Monuments Fund to endorse saving the Marine Stadium. This couldn't have happened at a better time because The City of Miami Historic and Environmental Preservation Board will discuss and possibly make a determination of the final historic designation of the Miami Marine Stadium at their meeting on Tuesday, October 7, at 3:00 PM, City of Miami Commission Chambers. Failure to do so should make them look like idiots-- or at least suspiciously on the take. If you got the time, try to stop by to make your voice heard.

UpDate (10/7/08): The City of Miami historic preservation board finally saw the light: by a vote of 8-0, it agreed to designate the Miami Marine Stadium worthy of preservation as an historic site. Let's see the visionless try to knock it down now!

UpDate (4/27/09): The Miami Marine Stadium becomes one of eleven buildings on the National Trust for Historic Preservation thanks in part to the efforts of Miami architect Jorge Hernandez and Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium. Let's see our visionless bureaucrats try to touch the old lady now.

UpDate (6/29/2012):

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Manola Blablablanik said...

I remember going to concerts there. It really is a shame!

Anonymous said...

Hogan Knows Best!!!
Get some high profile people to help. I want to go back to the stadium for the boat racing. And I live in Illinois.
Mark N

Verticus S. Erectus said...

After a rather long period of inactivity, MVB has recently been getting a lot of hits on this posting and we couldn't figure out why. Until Mark N's comment. We guess our community's newest resident the Hulkmeister must have said something on his reality show. Maybe he can spur something on towards saving the Marine Stadium. Our best solution: Make it a private/public venture sharing the costs of restoring in exchange for alloting the private entity rights to run it, i.e., book concerts, stage races, etc. Perhaps Unlimited Hydroplane racing might want to take over the venture propped up with sponsorship from Budweiser.

Connie said...

This subject is near and dear to my heart. My family
> relocated to the Miami area in the 60's and already
> being unlimited fans were happy to find races at
> Miami
> Marine Stadium. I grew up in the 70's and 80's
> waiting for the Champion Spark Plug Regatta to come
> into town usually in May or June (that I can
> remember). It broke my heart when I read an article
> in the Miami Herald and contacted the writer to ask
> if
> he had more photos from his visit to the stadium. He
> emailed me the photos and has since posted them on
> his
> website. I literally cried when I saw what my
> childhood memories had turned into.
> http://www.hibblenr MarineStadium. html
> I saw many concerts there as well as Unlimited
> Races.
> I can not believe plans are to tear it down and
> replace it with more shops that are already in
> abundance in Miami. Miami-Dade County has issues
> with
> history as they are trying to erase Hialeah Park
> from the map as well. I will be using writing emails to write to the Mayor
> and City Commissioner to express my deepest hope
> that
> they choose to revamp the stadium and bring the
> races
> back to South Florida. I hope everyone who reads this will do the same.

Capt John Wampler said...

It would seem to me that giving naming rights to a company or companies plus tax payer support could easily turn this area into the next water oriented attraction. Lord knows we could use more marina dockage. Why has there been nothing more than lip service being given to this outstanding piece of property?

Verticus S. Erectus said...

Lack of vision, white trash and nimby mentality.

Michael said...

I know I'm late coming to this dialogue, but... I only saw one unlimited hydroplane race at Marine Stadium, but it was very exciting. Today, the big boats race at speeds over 200 mph. It would be amazing to see them back in the stadium. I seem to recall an issue with manatees and 17" propellers spinning at 10,000 rpm. Don't look at Budweiser for naming rights. Two years after the death of Bernie Little, Budweiser left unlimited hydroplane racing (in favor of NASCAR and "Junior). The series today is only eight races and is looking for other venues. The governing body doesn't have enough cash to buy into the stadium renovation project, but would most assuredly put on a race (or two) every season. I say, renovate the stadium and bring the thunder back!

Michael Heitz,
Madison, IN (home of the world's only community-owned unlimited hydroplane, the Oh-Boy Oberto Miss Madison)

Anonymous said...

Like the many testimonies above I was in my teen years in the early 70's and saw many venues of power boat racing here. I was fortunate enough to crew on some of the tunnel hull teams and even took my personal boat around the course during the open runs! Find that thrill anywhere in the USA of going on a custom designed unlimited powerboat course. You cannot even describe the unlimited regattas unless you were there; totally awsome. I moved to Buffalo, NY (another City that lost the unlimited s back in the 60's) and have been going about my business since then always knowing the jewel of powerboat racing was down in Miami. Last fall I saw an episode of "CSI Miami" where they had held someone captive at Miami Marine Stadium. After 30 years I thought they had staged the graffiti and busted seats until I started researching the shambles the Stadium is in. TRULY, TRULY SAD. There are so many treasures up here in Buffalo too numerous to mention lost due to the neglect of government and too little support by preservationists. Let's face it, it comes down to money!

Miami, you cannot give up this jewel. If you do all will see is some more baby boomer condos and a retail boat strip for the next 20 years till that generation dies off and then what will their be besides memories. I can't believe with all your $$$$$ which the Northeast does not have and luxury boats there is no organization willing to save it.

How many million do you think, $10 - 20? I bet some of the corporate guys down there could come up with a plan to not only bring the powerboating back but some top notch venues of entertainment.


Don said...

A new organization called Friends of Marine Stadium has formed to finally get things moving. Check out the website for more info. We are just in our early stages; but the response has been sensational. We are working with many individuals and groups, including Hilario Candela, architect of the Stadium. There is definitely hope!

Don said...

A new group, Friends of Marine Stadium, has formed to bring back the Stadium to its former glory. Check out the website

We are working with numerous groups and individuals, including Hilario Candela, architect of The Stadium. The response has been terrific.

Anonymous said...

hahah yooo this place is one of the hottest spots to tag up. i love the marina penit!!!!