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Saving the Miami Marine Stadium

November 4, 2013

Designed in 1962 by a young Cuban architect, Hilario Candela, the Miami Marine Stadium is a modernist masterpiece that has been closed and neglected since Hurricane Andrew struck Southern Florida in 1992. All of that is about to change.

Led by Don Worth, Jorge Hernandez and Mr. Candela, a group of concerned citizens has been working since 2008 to save the Marine Stadium and restore it to its former glory. This waterfront stadium, which holds over 6,600 people, was originally built to host speed boat races (which were at the height of their popularity in the early 60s), concerts and other events on a floating stage.

Hilario Candela

The Stadium architect, Hilario Candela.

Entertainers like Jimmy Buffett, Gloria Estefan, Dave Brubeck, Ray Charles and the Beach Boys performed there, and it also served as the set for Elvis Presley's film, Clambake.

The Coral Gables Museum has a current exhibition highlighting the history of the Marine Stadium (on display until January 5, 2014) and a myriad of public events take a look back -- but also a look forward --for the Stadium. I recently participated in a panel discussion on the future of the Stadium with a number of others including:

  • Don Worth, co-founder of Friends of Miami Marine Stadium
  • Jorge Hernandez, co-founder of Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, architect, professor and board member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who spoke about the history of the Stadium
  • Bruce Orosz, president and CEO of ACT Productions, who spoke about the future of entertainment events at the Stadium
  • Fritz Hager, executive director of the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York, who spoke of plans to open a satellite museum at the Stadium, and
  • Tom Mooney, city planner for Miami Beach and tri-athlete, who spoke about future plans to host large-scale sporting events at the Stadium.

Future panels and events include:

  • Boat Racing Past and Future (November 6)
  • Bike Tour of the Miami Marine Stadium basin (November 17)
  • Graffiti Panel Discussion (November 20)
  • Live Interview with Stadium architect Hilario Candela (December 19)
  • Clambake Fundraiser (December 22)

  • Besides participating on the panel, I was fortunate to go on a tour of the Marine Stadium with Don Worth and Hilario Candela (see a few photos that I took while there). The beautiful, but dilapidated modernist structure juts out into the water with spectacular views of downtown Miami and the port of Miami where cruise ships dock and depart.

    Looking towards Miami

    The view toward downtown Miami.

    What one notices immediately is the graffiti-covered walls and surfaces − seemingly every surface has been spray-painted once or many times with colorful images, slogans, tags and names. In fact, the graffiti lends a certain amount of current "hipness" to the minimalist structure, and the Stadium's architect and advocates would like to try and maintain some of this graffiti without making it seem too "corporate."

    Graffiti covers the stadium

    Graffiti covers the Stadium walls and passageways.

    Painted eyes on the stadium

    Watchful eyes over the Stadium.

    American Express has made a grant of $80,000 (through the National Trust for Historic Preservation's National Treasures program) toward an engineering analysis of the seaside pilings that are sunk in the water and that support the Stadium's grandstand, as well as designs and permitting for any needed repairs to those structural pieces. This work needs to be completed before the restoration work can go forward. We plan to make an additional grant toward the preservation of the Miami Marine Stadium as part of the public fundraising campaign once it gets off the ground.

    The cantilevered roof

    The cantilevered concrete roof.

    Coincidentally, Hilario Candela is also the architect of the American Express Southern Regional Operations Center in Plantation, Florida. Preservation Magazine has referred to South ROC (as it is sometimes called) as "a solidly modular building with the imposing presence of a fortress, softened by the clean appeal of an Apple store."

    We would like to know your own experiences with the Miami Marine Stadium or other historic sites in the United States and around the world. Please share your comments and questions by clicking here. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and comment there. Thanks for reading and sharing this blog with others.

    P.S. Did you know that at the time of its construction, the 326-foot-long roof was the longest span of cantilevered concrete in the world?


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