Miami Marine Stadium was part of a significant shift in American architectural style from staid civic buildings to exuberant structures reflecting changing tastes. It demonstrated a civic desire to project the city as a forward-looking place. Commodore Ralph Middleton Munroe Miami Marine Stadium was the first purpose-built venue for powerboat racing in the United States. Designed by Cuban-American architect Hilario Candela, this 1960s concrete Modernist icon is a sentimental favorite for many in the Miami community. The 6,566-seat stadium, completed in 1964, was built on land donated by a local family specifically for water sports. The stadium, notable for its floating stage and stunning profile, hosted many world-class powerboat events and nationally televised concerts. The last major race in the stadium was in 1987 and concerts continued through the late 1980s as well.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew damaged the stadium, prompting city engineers to condemn the structure as unsafe. The stadium then sat vacant, without maintenance, subject to vandalism and prolific graffiti. In 2006 city development plans called for the demolition of the stadium. However, thanks to strong advocacy efforts and public outcry, the city’s plans were subsequently revised and the stadium was designated a local landmark in October 2008. In order to raise awareness about the state of the vacant, abandoned building, Miami Marine Stadium was included on the 2010 World Monuments Watch.
A symbol of modernity for a growing city
The same year the Miami Marine Stadium was included on the Watch, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the stadium on its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places; the decision for both organizations to simultaneously include the Miami Marine Stadium on their respective lists displayed a combined effort to recognize the threats of the site.
After inclusion on the Watch, WMF undertook a structural feasibility study that demonstrated the building was structurally sound. The Friends of Miami Marine Stadium used this new information to bolster their preservation advocacy campaign. In 2012, Miami commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of renovation. In 2016 the city allocated $45M towards the stadium’s renovation, beginning with a thorough evaluation of the building and a study of potential uses. In July 2017, based on the findings of the evaluation and potential uses, the Miami City Commission agreed to proceed with phase II of the renovation, which will include the preparation of complete architectural plans for the renovation of the structure. Meanwhile, the site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in April 2018.