Plans Unveiled for Dolphin Stadium Renovation

by George Richmond on January 8, 2010

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Photos courtesy – Miami Dolphins

By now you’ve probably read about the proposed improvements to Dolphin Stadium (yes, you read that right. See below).

After unexpectedly getting their rear ends handed to them in their bid for the 2013 big game (which went to New Orleans), the South Florida Super Bowl Committee received sharp criticism from the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Nevermind that South Florida is arguably the most desirable February locale, not to mention the most well-equipped from an accommodation and attraction standpoint.  Not good enough, said the NFL.

No, this is about keeping up with the Joneses.  Literally.  Goodell and the league have pointed to Jerry Jones’ $1.8 billion crown jewel that opened in Dallas this season, among others.  Basically, Dolphin Stadium has been passed by newer, more modern venues that also protect against the elements i.e. the downpour that ruined South Florida’s last Super Bowl.  It’s spot in college football’s Bowl Championship Series championship game rotation is also at stake.

It’s time for a facelift.  And the folks who the stadium — namely Dolphins and stadium CEO Mike Dee and owner Stephen Ross — have heard it loud and clear.

“It’s time to make sure this facility can compete with the best facilities of the 21st century,” Dee said.

Here are some down and dirty details:

• 621,000 square foot white metal roof covering 100 percent of the seating bowl.

My take: Sounds great!  This will make the stadium louder, as the sound will not escape so easily as it does now.  No more being rained on.  And the field is still open air.

Other Thoughts: White metal is probably the best choice from a sunlight and temperature standpoint.  It’s unclear from the renderings whether or not there will be any sort of glass or clear materials used.  Perhaps around the inside areas of the roof.

• New HD scoreboards in each corner of the stadium

My take: What’s not to like?  Everybody gets a better view.  The corner spectator seats will largely go away, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The stadium could stand to lose 8 to 10,000 seats, putting capacity more in line with the market base.  Dolphins Stadium is currently the NFL’s sixth-largest.

Other Thoughts: White metal is probably the best choice from a sunlight and temperature standpoint.  It’s unclear from the renderings whether or not there will be any sort of glass or clear materials used.  Perhaps around the inside areas of the roof.

• Re-designed lower bowl, on a lower slope and seats closer to the field

My take: This has long been a complaint of many fans and should make for a more intimate setting.  I’m not sure about the lowered slope improving the site lines, but Dee says that’s exactly what will happen.  No reason not to believe him.  That said, you would hope that the view from the rows closest to the field would not be obstructed by the players standing on the sidelines.  So elevation will be key.

Other Thoughts: Dee has talked about replacing every one of the stadium’s 23-year  old seats.  Judging by the renderings, they’re going to be swapping out the orange seats — which gives the appearance of vacancy even where there isn’t any — for darker aqua ones.  How many — if any — additional seats are created by the new lower bowl is unknown.

Estimates on cost — and more importantly, who pays for how much — are expected in a few weeks.  The public has already bitten off about $100 million for the Marlins new stadium.  In these economic times, it will be difficult to secure more support for public money.

Regardless, I do not expect the bulk of construction to begin until early 2012 when the Marlins will have vacated the premises.  Construction crews would then have 6-7 month windows to work with.

Noteworthy:  That’s not a mistype.  As of this week, the Stadium Formerly Known As Joe Robbie reverted back to “Dolphin Stadium”.  Ross’ deal with Land Shark Lager was only through the 2009 season (or the Orange Bowl, whichever was longer).  Dee said he expects to announce a naming rights deal this month’s end.  Multiple reports have previously suggested the deal will be with Sun Life Financial, and that the name will be “Sun Life Stadium”.

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