Plenty of Life Left in Miami Marine Stadium

How cool was Miami in the 1960s? Just take a look at the Miami Marine Stadium, built in 1964 as a powerboat racing and water skiing venue. Today, the stadium is vacant but remains a popular visual landmark in the Miami skyline. The concrete structure, with its jagged roof line and cantilevered canopy is now coated with multicolored graffiti—a far cry from the place where Sammy Davis, Jr., famously hugged Richard Nixon on stage in 1972 and Jimmy Buffet performed in 1985.

The stadium was damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and has been unused ever since. Like so many spectacular early- and mid-20th-century structures, the marine stadium has been tagged a white elephant by Miami city officials, whose proposed new plan for Virginia Key called for demolition.

In the belief that all the stadium needs is a viable new program and a willing developer, WMF has partnered with the Friends of the Marine Stadium and the National Trust to undertake a structural feasibility study that will demonstrate that there are plenty of good years ahead for the Marine Stadium with the right business plan. The structural engineering firm doing the study, Simpson, Gumphertz & Heger, Inc., has a particular expertise in mid-century modern structures and has actually worked on other powerboat racing facilities. (Who knew?)

The key to this and countless other mid-century-modern preservation battles relies on passionate, committed local advocates. Don Worth and Jorge Hernandez, leaders of the Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, have waged a thoughtful, determined campaign—seeking to engage both public and private stakeholders in a rational, productive preservation discussion.

Although the City Planning Commission voted to designate the stadium a local landmark, Don and Jorge know that a vacant stadium is at risk. The study is a tool they will use to help the City of Miami bring new life to this beloved landmark.