The Miami Marine Stadium is a marine stadium on Virginia Key, Miami, Florida, United States. The facility, completed in 1963 on land donated to the City of Miami from the Matheson family, is the first stadium purpose-built for powerboat racing in the United States. The stadium was abandoned in 1992 when officials declared it unsafe following Hurricane Andrew. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.

Miami Marine Stadium
Concert-goers watch an evening concert on Biscayne Bay, 1967
Former namesRalph Munroe Marine Stadium
LocationVirginia Key, Miami, Florida, United States
Coordinates25°44′35″N 80°10′11″W / 25.74306°N 80.16972°W / 25.74306; -80.16972
OwnerCity of Miami
Acreage240 acres (970,000 m2) (land and water)
OpenedDecember 27, 1963 (1963-12-27)
ClosedSeptember 18, 1992 (1992-09-18)
Construction cost$2 million (1963)[1]
ArchitectHilario Candela
General contractorMillman Construction

History edit

The 6,566-seat stadium was built in 1963 by the Millman Construction Company of Miami Beach.[2] The structure was built on land donated for water sports, and designed by architect Hilario Candela, then a 28-year-old recent immigrant from Cuba. It was dedicated as the Ralph Munroe Marine Stadium and cost $2 million (equivalent to $19,904,000 in 2023). A speed boat racer, James Tapp, was killed on opening day. The venue, located just south of Downtown Miami, was revered for its scenic views of Downtown and Miami Beach, hosting motorboat events, and events featuring the likes of Mitch Miller, Sammy Davis, Jr., and U.S. President Richard Nixon (whose seasonal winter residence, dubbed "the Florida White House", was on nearby Key Biscayne).[3]

In 1979, Miami Rowing Club relocated to an empty lot between the stadium and MAST Academy (then known as Planet Ocean museum). The Miami International Regatta has been hosted by Miami Rowing Club since 1973, the basin provides a 1,500 meter 7 lane course for practice, training and racing.

From its opening for nearly 30 years, the stadium was used for its intended water sports as well as concerts, sporting events such as boxing (which began in 1972), and even figured prominently in the 1967 Elvis Presley film Clambake, serving as the scene of Elvis' climactic speedboat race.[4] In the wake of Hurricane Andrew, it was declared an unsafe building under Miami-Dade County building code on September 18, 1992. In 2004, $3 million was pledged in a municipal bonds by county residents for the restoration and renovation of the facilities.

Revitalization edit

In 2009, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Commodore Ralph Middleton Munroe Marine Stadium to its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.[5][6] The National Trust designated the stadium as a National Treasure in March 2012.[6][7] On April 18, 2012, the Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects placed the stadium on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places as the Ralph Middleton Munroe Miami Marine Stadium.[8]

A group, Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, was formed in 2008 with the purpose of restoring the Marine Stadium and returning it to operation. Performer Gloria Estefan, through her charity group, is a major contributor to Friends of Miami Marine Stadium. The City of Miami granted control of the stadium property to the group in 2013, and the group returned in late 2014 with a revitalization proposal and supposed funds. This project brought the Miami International Boat Show to the Miami Marine Stadium on February 11–15, 2016.[9] The Miami International Boat Show used the Marine Stadium as a venue from 2016 until 2021.[10]

In 2016, the Miami City Commission voted to approve up to $45 million in revenue-bond financing to restore the stadium. An architecture firm was hired and restoration plans were finalized, but the bond authorization expired.[11] The city had planned to renovate the Miami Marine Stadium into a concert venue, but, by late 2020, Miami officials had refused to disclose detailed plans for the venue.[12] By 2021, the city of Miami was looking to hire a new advisor to consult on the restoration of the Miami Marine Stadium.[13] City commissioners were expected to vote on a $61.2 million revenue bond financing on February 24, 2022, but the vote was deferred until late May 2022.[11][14] This delay was intended to allow Miami officials to conduct a cost–benefit analysis of the renovation.[15] In June 2022, Miami officials further postponed a vote on the bond.[16]

Meanwhile, Miami officials proposed in late 2022 to build a boat ramp, as well as parking space for boat trailers, next to the Miami Marine Stadium.[17] Miami's Planning and Zoning Advisory Board approved the proposal in December 2022,[18] in spite of concerns that the construction of the boat ramp would cause congestion on the Rickenbacker Causeway.[19] Preservationist group Dade Heritage Trust asked city officials to cancel the approval of the boat ramp,[20][21] but Miami city commissioners rejected the request in early 2023.[22] Workers began restoring the Miami Marine Stadium in early 2023, repairing damaged pilings at a cost of $2.4 million.[23]

Design edit

Poured entirely in concrete, the Miami Marine Stadium consists of a cantilevered folded plate roof supported by eight big slanted columns anchored in the ground through the grandstand. A huge horizontal beam tied them all together. A cut in the seating arrangement allowed spectators to appreciate the full height of the posts, which were pushed as far back as possible to permit unobstructed views over the watercourse.[24] This concept was presented by one of the project's architects, Hilaro Candela to be original, however the idea was synonymous to several other well-established stadiums throughout Latin America and Europe, including the Florence Stadium designed by Pier Luigi Nervi, built 1932, the Baseball and Soccer stadiums in Cartagena, Colombia, by Guillermo Gonzalez Zuleta in 1947 and The University Stadium in Caracas designed by Carlos Raul Villanueva, built in 1950. The Miami Marine Stadium bears striking resemblance to the more elegant horse-racing Hipódromo de la Zarzuela in Madrid, Spain, designed by Carlos Arniches Moltó and Martín Domínguez in 1934–35.

Facilities edit

The Stadium was host for many world class powerboat events including Unlimited Hydroplane, Inboard, Outboard, Performance Craft, Stock, Modified, Grand National divisions as well as other special event races. The Stadium was also the site of a number of nationally televised events including the Orange Bowl Regatta (power boat races), the Bill Muncey Invitational and the ESPN All American Challenge Series. The last major race in the Stadium was the 20th Annual Budweiser Hydroplane Regatta, June 1–3, 1990.

Since its condemnation in 1992, the stadium has become a haven for graffiti artists, but remains an attraction for its photographic panoramic view of the central business districts and barrier islands of Miami.

References edit


  1. ^ Rabin, Charles (July 25, 2011). "Miami Marine Stadium rehab on hold in dispute between city, preservationists". The Miami Herald. Archived from the original on August 30, 2011. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
  2. ^ Engineering News-record. McGraw-Hill. 1964. p. 22. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  3. ^ "A Magic Tour of Miami Goes From Art to Zoo". The Miami News. February 9, 1968. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
  4. ^ Friends of Miami Marine Stadium. "Clambake-Elvis Presley; "Where's Chico?"". Archived from the original on May 2, 2018. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  5. ^ National Trust 2009
  6. ^ a b Poliakoff, Amy (May 21, 2021). "Restoring a national treasure: Miami's Marine Stadium". Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  7. ^ "MARINE STADIUM TIME LINE | Promote Restoration - Miami, FL". Friends of Miami Marine Stadium. Archived from the original on October 14, 2017. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  8. ^ "Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places". Archived from the original on April 29, 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2012.
  9. ^ Smiley, David (November 20, 2014). "Massive Miami Marine Stadium plan crumbles". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on November 21, 2014. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  10. ^ "Miami International Boat Show". March 31, 2015. Archived from the original on March 31, 2015. Retrieved June 7, 2023.
    "Miami International Boat Show". March 21, 2016. Archived from the original on March 21, 2016. Retrieved June 7, 2023.
    "Miami International Boat Show". April 29, 2017. Archived from the original on April 29, 2017. Retrieved June 7, 2023.
    "Miami International Boat Show". April 25, 2018. Archived from the original on April 25, 2018. Retrieved June 7, 2023.
    "Miami International Boat Show". July 2, 2019. Archived from the original on July 2, 2019. Retrieved June 7, 2023.
    "Miami International Boat Show". August 27, 2020. Archived from the original on August 27, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2023.
  11. ^ a b "As Miami's skyline booms, the future of a long-neglected tropical Brutalist gem hangs in the balance". Washington Post. February 24, 2022. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on February 25, 2022. Retrieved February 26, 2022.
  12. ^ Viglucci, Andres (October 19, 2020). "Miami Marine Stadium closer to $45M makeover, but city is obscuring detailed plan". Miami Herald. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  13. ^ Robbins, John Charles (May 4, 2021). "City seeks yet another advisor on Miami Marine Stadium". Miami Today. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  14. ^ Robbins, John Charles (March 1, 2022). "Miami sidetracks funds to restore Miami Marine Stadium". Miami Today. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  15. ^ Robbins, John Charles (March 29, 2022). "Cost analysis a setback for Miami Marine Stadium return". Miami Today. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  16. ^ "Miami's indefinite deferral stalls Marine Stadium restoration". Miami Today. June 7, 2022. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  17. ^ Robbins, John Charles (September 6, 2022). "City asks for exception to allow boat ramp". Miami Today. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  18. ^ Robertson, Linda (December 23, 2022). "Board approves plan to put boat ramp by Miami Marine stadium - critics worry about chaos". Miami Herald. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  19. ^ Poliakoff, Amy (May 12, 2021). "Virginia Key boat ramp hits a nerve with concerned safety advocates". Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  20. ^ Grossman, Hillard (January 19, 2023). "Safety concerns and environmental impact ignored; City of Miami moves forward building Virginia Key boat ramp". Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  21. ^ Robbins, John Charles (January 17, 2023). "Concerns mount over boat ramp at Miami Marine Stadium". Miami Today. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  22. ^ Bowen, Genevieve (February 28, 2023). "Miami denies appeal, Marine Stadium boat ramp on fast track". Miami Today. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  23. ^ Snelling, David L. (February 28, 2023). "Miami begins long overdue renovations to Marine Stadium on Virginia Key, which has been closed for 30 years". Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  24. ^ Lejeune, Jean-Francois (2009). "Miami's Marine Stadium". Miami Modern Metropolis: Paradise and Paradox in Midcentury Architecture and Planning. Miami, Fla.: Bass Museum of Art. p. 355.


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