MIAMI GARDENS — Hard Rock Stadium and its immediate surroundings are evolving into somewhat of a campus thanks to new multi-million dollar venues on different sections of the property.
The hub, of course, is the 65,000-seat stadium that the Seminole Tribe’s Hard Rock International attached its name in 2016 in an 18-year, $250 million naming rights deal with Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
Under construction on the south side of the property is a $50 million tennis facility that will be the new home of the Miami Open, one of the sport’s most prestigious non-Grand Slam events.
The northwest corner will be the site of the Dolphins new training facility. Tom Garfinkel, president and CEO of the Dolphins and the stadium, pegged the cost of the training facility at potentially $75 million to $80 million. The team’s decision to move from its current practice location at Nova Southeastern University in Davie to Miami Gardens was warmly welcomed by officials in Miami-Dade County during an Aug. 7 press conference at the stadium.
“By giving world-class athletes a top training location, this facility will beef up our ability to bid for, and win, top sports events, such as the 2026 World Cup and future Super Bowls,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. “I can certainly see the new training facility being a training facility for World Cup teams in 2026.”
Although specific locations for the 2026 World Cup, which will be held in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, have not been announced, Hard Rock Stadium is among 17 candidates vying for games in the U.S.
Long before the World Cup comes to North America, Hard Rock Stadium has plenty of other high-profile events that will place it on the national and international stages. In addition to next winter’s Miami Open, the stadium will host the 2020 Super Bowl and 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship. (Hard Rock’s 36-story guitar-shaped hotel in Hollywood is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019 in time for the Super Bowl.)
Garfinkel pointed out at the press conference that in the coming few weeks alone, the stadium would be the site of three Dolphins games as well as concerts featuring music superstars Taylor Swift, Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Also on the menu for the remainder of 2018 are six Miami Hurricanes football games, Columbia vs Venezuela and Chile vs Peru soccer matches and the Orange Bowl, which will double as a national semifinal this year. Earlier this year, soccer heavyweights Manchester United and Real Madrid played at the stadium as did The Eagles and Jimmy Buffet. In 2017, it was U2, Metallica and Cold Play that highlighted the agenda.
Attracting all of these major players from the sports and music industries comes on the heels of Ross’s recent three-year, $500 million investment in major renovations to the stadium.
“I think it’s truly the global entertainment destination that was envisioned,” Garfinkel said.
Construction is well underway on the 30 courts for the tennis facility outside the stadium. A temporary 14,000-seat Center Court will be set up in Hard Rock Stadium for the tournament, which will be held from March 18-31.
“I have to thank Mr. Ross and the Dolphins organization for helping keep that major tennis tournament here in our community. Without them, believe me, we would have lost the Miami Open,” Gimenez said.
According to Garfinkel, the earliest the football training facility will be open is 2020.
The addition of both venues means the elimination of close to 4,000 parking spots, but Garfinkel said Hard Rock Stadium’s parking was built to accommodate the stadium’s previous capacity of 75,000 seats, which was reduced by 10,000 seats due to the renovations. He said there will still be enough parking spots to accommodate everyone and stressed that the addition of pedestrian bridges and tunnels – expected to be in place by the start of the 2019 football season – will help alleviate congestion and improve safety.
“On some days, it can look like a game of Frogger out there. We want to avoid that,” he said.
Garfinkel said the condition of the stadium’s turf, which was an issue last season, has been solved by changing vendors. The Dolphins will also delve first-hand into the sod business.
“We’ve now invested in 80 acres outside of West Palm Beach. We will be building and creating our own sod farm, producing our own sod so we can control the quality of the sod and not rely on outside vendors, and make sure for the 2019 season, the 2020 Super Bowl and beyond we can control the quality of the sod,” Garfinkel said.
As for additional changes off the field, new vendors &Pizza and Mojo Donuts have been added to the food choices. A plaza leading from the stadium to the tennis facility on the south side now includes a giant video board behind a statue of former Dolphins star Dan Marino. Landscape additions include the planting of more than 1,500 trees and 57,000 shrubs and flowers along with new paths and fountains, all at a cost of $4 million according to Garfinkel.
Finishing touches to upgrades in the team’s locker room were being made by workers a couple days before the preseason opener Aug. 9 at home against Tampa Bay. Miami’s regular season kicks off Sept. 9 against Tennessee at Hard Rock Stadium.