Thursday morning, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and representatives from Heineken and the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced a new initiative to support the renovation of the stadium.
The “Save Your Seat” campaign will reward South Florida residents with “unique perks” for supporting the project. A crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo has also been started to collect donations. Heineken said it would match up to $40,000 in the initiatives first two weeks.
“The removal of the stadium’s worn and weathered seats is a critical first step in its transformation into a fully updated world class concert and events venue,” said Stephanie Meeks of the National Trust. “And through this partnership with Heineken we’re excited to offer a limited number of these seats as perks to donors in this campaign.”
“It will be a shame to lose all these seats because we already lost a great opportunity to save history when the Orange Bowl was demolished,” added Mayor Regalado.
Meeks said the National Trust has searched the world over and no other stadium like Miami Marine exists anywhere. She called it one of South Florida’s most distinctive landmarks, and one of the world’s top endangered ones.
“This is such a big monster,” said Ken Russell, District 2 Commissioner on Virginia Key. “Nearly $40 million is needed to bring it back. So many groups have tried before. Efforts have been made and lost. We are gonna do it.”
The million dollar stadium was constructed on Virginia Key as the first purpose-built venue for powerboat racing in the United States. On December 23, 1963 it was dedicated as the Ralph Munroe Marine Stadium.
With its floating stage, the stadium would host a variety of events in later years ranging from boxing matches to classical, rock and pop music concerts including the legendary and raucous 1985 Jimmy Buffett concert. Other memorable performances there include Queen, The Beach Boys, Steppenwolf, Dave Brubeck, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, the Miami Philharmonic and Ray Charles.
The stadium also has another claim to fame. In 1967, the Elvis Presley movie “Clambake”—about an oil tycoon’s heir swapping places with a poor water-skier—was filmed there.
After Hurricane Andrew, it was declared unsafe under Miami-Dade County building code and shuttered by the City of Miami. An engineering study found it was sound, and not damaged by the hurricane, but it was closed to the public, nonetheless.
Since then, the stadium has become a haven for vandals, graffiti artists and taggers.
In February 2008, Friends of Miami Marine Stadium (FMMS) was formed. They secured the stadium an historic designation by Miami’s Historic Preservation and Environmental Board. The stadium was also recognized as an architectural masterpiece by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It was named to the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered List in 2009.
On April 6, 2010, Miami-Dade County Commissioners passed a resolution to allocate $3-million to the stadium to start its historical preservation and return it as a venue for water sports and major concerts.
As the years passed FMMS, which had been given control of the property, formulated a plan to save the abandoned stadium. They also came up with the idea to host the city’s premiere boat show there.
While the renderings looked impressive, the details of the plan were not. In December, 2014 they were turned down by Miami Commissioners and they were blasted by their own spokesperson, Gloria Estefan. Some board members admitted the proposal was rushed. One called it a Hail Mary pass to get something done.
The Miami commission, however, adopted the boat-show plan, but pushed out FMMS amid doubts over its financial plan and a proposal to pay two of its leaders, including the stadium’s eminent original architect, Hilario Candela, to design the renovation, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.
In February 16th, 2016, the Miami International Boat Show made a splashy debut on the stadium’s grounds. Proceeds from holding the show on there went to help underwrite the stadium work.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.