Written by Karen Nickless
The City of Miami closed Miami Marine Stadium in 1992. Since then it has been neglected, sitting in a sea of empty asphalt. Almost every square inch is covered with graffiti. The city plans to redevelop the site and the rest of Virginia Key, but they are lukewarm about preserving the Stadium.
Fortunately, there are a large number of people and organizations dedicated to saving Miami Marine Stadium. The Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, working with Trust local partner, Dade Heritage Trust, have led the effort. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized Miami Marine Stadium as a stunning but endangered work of modern architecture when we named it to this year’s list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
Jorge Hernandez, National Trust trustee, architect and University of Mimi professor of architecture, involved his architecture students in a semester-long Preservation Planning Studio, studying the site and designing plans for its revitalization. The Stadium’s architect, Hilario Candela, participated, giving the students great insight into his thought process while designing the structure.
On May 8 the students presented three plans to the public. Their challenge was to find a reuse for the site that met the specifications of the City of Miami, including a certain number of boat slips, parking spaces, etc. The city did not insist on the preservation of the Stadium. The students did.
The students looked at every detail of the site. Just a few of their innovative ideas:
- Replace the current parking green space with tree-shaded remote parking laid out like old Florida attractions, with short roads feeding larger arteries. Use a pervious surface where possible, reducing the impact on the environment.
- Expand and reorient the marina to create more boat slips than required by the City. Use an innovative new storage system to fit more dry slips into less space.
- Place the ticket booth on the lawn to create room in the Stadium for other needs. This will encourage visitors to linger on the lawn and appreciate the architecture of the Stadium. The newly designed ticket booth resembles a Fresnel lens.
- Move concessions, originally inside the Stadium, to the ground floor. Orient them to the exterior, allowing them to be open even when the stadium is closed. Spaces will be available for temporary vendors and permanent businesses.
- Preserve some of the graffiti as part of the history of the Stadium, either as panels or as mosaics that will give visual interest and take visitors by surprise at various locations as they take their seats.
The students were so enthusiastic about their project that they requested meeting every day instead of three times a week and added extra tasks to their project, such as writing a National Register nomination. Working with Hilario and Jorge in a unique multi-generational collaboration resulted in innovative and yet practical solutions for the reuse of Miami Marine Stadium. The students’ plans have been presented to the City of Miami.
In addition to the design plans, the Friends of Miami Marine Stadium will be able to give the city a current a structural analysis and cost estimate for reuse of the structure. The $50,000 study is funded by a coalition of local, national and international preservation organizations: the National Trust, World Monuments Fund, The Villagers and Miami Dade County Commissioner Carlos Jimenez’s office.
With these tools in hand and continued public support, Miami Marine Stadium has a good chance of again hosting boat racing, concerts and other events and becoming a vital part of Miami. See you at the next Jimmy Buffett concert!
Karen Nickless, PhD is a field representative for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Southern Office.