Spring 2012 – Miami Marine Stadium to be reborn

By Don Worth

Once destined for the wrecking ball, the legendary Miami Marine Stadium is now on a path to restoration. Visitors and residents alike might have access to what may be the greatest outdoor entertainment venue in the U.S. In March 2012, the Miami City Commission approved legislation creating a partnership with Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, a not-for-profit organization, to develop a plan to restore and operate the Marine Stadium. Under the terms of the Agreement, the Friends group has two years to fully raise the funding necessary and develop an operating plan for the Stadium.

The Past

The Miami Marine Stadium is a 6,500-seat grandstand on and over the water in Virginia Key, on the way to Key Biscayne. Originally designed for boat racing, the Marine Stadium was built in 1963. The stadium was designed by architect Hilario Candela, a young, 28-year-old architect educated at the University of Havana and Georgia Tech. Hilario went on to become President of Spillis Candela, at one time the largest Hispanic-owned architectural firm in the United States. He is a Co-Founder of Friends of Miami Marine Stadium. The initial cost of the Stadium and the Marine Stadium Basin, which was dredged at the same time, was $2 million. When it was built, the origami-like, folded-plate roof of the Stadium was the largest span of cantilevered concrete in the world.

During its years of operation (1963-1992), the Stadium hosted a wide spectrum of events: powerboat races, symphony and rock concerts, Easter services, presidential appearances, talk shows and countless numbers of community events. Performers would play on a floating stage anchored just a few feet from the Marine Stadium. Dozens—sometimes hundreds of boats—would surround the stage to create one of the most unique entertainment venues to be found anywhere. Performers at the Marine Stadium included The Who, Ray Charles, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Jimmy Buffett, and many more.

The Stadium was shuttered after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 (it was never damaged) and has sat vacant ever since.

The Present

In 2008, The Friends of Miami Marine Stadium was organized to actively promote retention and restoration of this remarkable building.

Since that time, much progress has been made. In October of 2008, the Miami Marine Stadium was designated historic by the City’s Historic Preservation Board. The City’s Master Plan for Virginia Key, approved in July of 2010 makes the Marine Stadium one of the key components of the plan. The Stadium is also a key priority for Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.

Meanwhile, the Stadium has generated significant national interest. The Marine Stadium was named to the National Trust For Historic Preservation’s “11 Most Endangered List” (2009) and the World Monuments Fund Watch List (2010). Jimmy Buffett cut a video endorsement and the Miami Herald has written seven editorials in support of restoration.

The Future

Given the challenging economic situation for government, Friends of Miami Marine Stadium is committed to restore and operate the Stadium without any funding from the City of Miami. Of the estimated $30 million restoration cost, Friends of Miami Marine Stadium already has $10 million in commitments. The balance must be raised through a capital campaign.

The Miami Marine Stadium will be a tremendous asset to Miami, a wonderful amenity for residents and an economic generator capable of hosting one-of-a-kind events and spectacles. To learn more, email Don Worth ( or visit

Donald (“Don) Worth is a Co-Founder of Friends of Miami Marine Stadium and has been involved in a wide variety of preservation issues over the last 15 years. He was Vice Chairman of the Urban Arts Committee of Miami Beach, which created the first photography exhibit of Miami Modern (MiMo) architecture.

From BHA News, Spring 2012, Vol. XXI, No. 1