Saturday, August 29, 2015

Miami Dolphins Sold Me Obstructed Season Tickets

There was plenty of buzz for the first game at the freshly renovated Sun Life Stadium on Saturday night. It was preseason, but the Miami Dolphins still came through with an announced attendance of 60,661 football fans -- the largest showing in seven years.

However, lost in all of the hype of swanky premium seats, upgraded food options, and promises of even more improvements for the 2016 season is that I -- and a few other longtime season ticket holders like myself -- got stuck with seats that until tonight we didn't know only offer a partial view of the playing field. 

This is my new seat for the 2015 season. This is Section 111. Row 13. More than half the field is obstructed by other fans and a steel-lined glass panel railing.  It's as bad as it looks, and it gets even worse for the two seats to my left. See that diagonal wall? Those two fans weren't at the game tonight, but there going to be even more steamed than I am when they show up to realize what the Miami Dolphins organization sold them.

See, I had a choice. I had a lot of choices. My wife and I have been season ticket holders since 1987, and with 28 years of seniority we had early dibs on the relocation that every fan had to go through earlier this year. When our turn came up, it was logical to want to duplicate the same seats that we had enjoyed for 28 years -- overlooking the tunnel where the players would enter and leave the stadium, row five of what used to be Section 156.

We know that those exact seats would no longer be available. They were perfect. The first five rows of the old Section 156 in the endzone featured just two seats -- the tunnel -- and another seven seats on the other side of the tunnel. My wife and I had the two seats with the aisle to the left and great personal interaction with the players, celebrities, and VIPs that would go in and out of the tunnel to the right.

Players come in from opposing corner tunnels now. They didn't exist until this season. When our turn came up there were no seats on top of the Dolphins tunnel so we figured the visiting team's tunnel would have to do. At no point were we told that the seats were obstructed or that the glass panel -- one where the glare from the scoreboard and stadium lights makes an already unpleasant viewing situation even more challenging -- would make it impossible to view the entire field.

If we knew that, obviously we wouldn't have chosen these seats, and that's where things get dicey. My wife and I can't go back in time to where our seniority granted us most of the stadium at our disposal. The relocation process is done. All of the good seats are gone. We chose -- and chose poorly -- but largely because the Dolphins didn't disclose that some of the new seats being added were in fact obstructed.

Making matters worse, row 13 in section 111 -- the front row above the tunnel -- doesn't have proper draining. We spent the entire game in an inch of water. If it rains as it did just before and during the game you're going to have your shoes and socks soaked. I imagine this is the same situation just above all four of the new corner sections that now have tunnels. I can't imagine what will happen when we get a real downpour, and it wont' be a matter of merely dealing with standing water on the lowest row.

The Miami Dolphins are celebrating 50 years of history, and I've been a loyal season ticket holder through most of that run. Speaking out isn't my style, and a few years ago the Dolphins honored me at Sun Life for being the first person to renew my season tickets after an otherwise challenging season. However, I can't stay silent after being wronged. The headlines on Saturday morning will be gushing about the renovated stadium's upgrades, but some of us got cheated in the relocation process.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Team Incognito? Team Martin? How About Team Dolphins?

It's been a rough few weeks to be a Miami fan, as you can probably either imagine or already know. The Miami Herald's Adam Beasley just published an article where he reached out to Dolphins season ticket holders. I was one of them. My comments didn't make it into the article, so I figured I would share my responses here.

Have you heard from the Dolphins in the last couple of weeks. If so, what did they say?

I haven't heard anything specific about the Incognito-Martin situation, but the communiques have increased since then. I was sent a survey on 10/30, but didn't fill it out. My rep -- James Dean (I've never met him, but cool name) -- sent me an offer to be part of the flag ceremony at the previous home game and now sent a form to nominate veterans for the San Diego game. They had never done that before:

I think they're trying to kill us with kindness until this episode passes.

Is this the most embarrassed and discouraged you've ever been as a Dolphins fan. If so, why?

I don't know if this is more or less embarrassing than the 1-15 season, Marino's front office reversal, or Ross' Harbaugh recruiting face plant, but I don't think Miami has ever been as universally belittled by the media as it has been this time around. That stings. The irony of the franchise being bullied by the media over this is hickory thick. We have twice as many victories as the two other Florida teams combined. We have an ascending quarterback. However, we're somehow the laughingstock of the league because of something that may very well be happening in every other locker room in the league?

Do you plan on going to games the rest of the season? Why or why not?

The gray clouds have actually fortified my conviction. I was going to try and unload my tickets to the Chargers game, but now I can't imagine missing it. Whether this is a train wreck or a Phoenix is about to rise from the ashes, I don't want to miss this. This is horrible on so many different levels, but if it's the catalyst that builds character I don't want to be the one that turned my back on the team that I've been financially supporting for 26 seasons.

We are just a single game out of the final wild card slot, and there's a very real possibility that somehow this will bond the team into being something north of mediocre for the first time in ages.

Are you planning to renew your STH for 2014?

Yes, I'm renewing, though I may not be the first one to do so the way I did in 2011.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sun Life Stadium $400 Million Makeover

Stephen Ross and the Miami Dolphins introduced plans to give Sun Life a $400 million face lift today. If approved, the partly publicly-financed improvements will modernize the facility, providing a better fan experience along the way.

It looks great on many different levels. Sideline seats would be added, bringing those fans 18 feet closer to the action. Some of the top rows in the upper deck corners would be gone, replaced by one of four HD screens. The roof, as you can see, would provide some necessary relief against the sun and rain, without having to scrap the natural grass field.

Ross plans to pay for most of the makeover himself, though he still wants an additional $3 million in tax rebates to offset the costs and to get hotel taxes to go from 6% to 7% with the makeover financing getting the difference.

So, right away, there will be some resistance. After all, a $3 million annual rebate here means a $3 million shortfall elsewhere. Raising hotel taxes will pin the cost on tourists, even though more than 99% of the visitors to Miami-Dade don't go to a game.

The makeover is still important. One of the major gripes of Sun Life -- in its present form -- is that fans aren't much of a factor. Unlike the Orange Bowl where fans were all over the action, Sun Life seating is distant so even nearly 75,000 screaming fans can't create the loud environment that gives visiting teams the willies in some of the more intimate playing venues.

Selfishly, I have to wonder what will become of MY seats. Anyone that has seen my Tunnel Today videos here or on YouTube knows that I'm lucky enough to sit in the first five rows of Section 156 which surrounds the tunnel where the players from both teams go in and out during the game. If these renderings are correct -- and we know that they're often not -- it seems as if Sections 156 and 128 at the other end no longer have the tunnel going through the seats. There's an opening under both sections, so the tunnel may now descend beneath the seats -- or the tunnels will be places off to the sides of the endzones as it seems to be the case in the artist rendering.

We'll see. It can be brutal to be at a 1pm game early in the season when the sun is blazing. A promised upgrade to the kitchen could go a long way toward making the concessions as tasty as those found in the three other major South Florida sporting venues. There will be resistance to the funding. The Miami Marlins ruined that for the Dolphins, and it's not as if the Hurricanes, Orange Bowl game, or even concerts will go somewhere else. There is no other facility that can seat as many people in South Florida. However, as a fan -- season ticket holder since 1987 when the stadium first opened -- I welcome the chance to make the game more enjoyable for the fans and finally give the Dolphins the home-field advantage that they have largely lacked since laving the Orange Bowl.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why Are Tennessee Titans Better to Miami Fans Than Miami Dolphins

Let's start with the obvious: It was painful to watch the Dolphins get clobbered on Sunday. The feelgood season that was tested after a close loss to the Colts unhinged in a hurry. The fans were booing the offense early, and the benching of Reggie Bush for a fumble was inexplicable. A very winnable game turns into a 37-4 rout.

The video that I shot here begins with the final snap of the game. See the near-empty stadium? Don't get me wrong. I've seen teams with even diehard fans largely clear out after a blowout, but I have never seen a stadium as empty as Sun Life was during the last few snaps of the game.

I also want you to keep watching the video to see that even though there weren't any -- okay, not many -- Titans fans around, many of the Tennessee Titans took the time to toss their gloves and wristbands to the fans in Section 156. A few Dolphins did so, too.

I know. You expect Miami -- as a losing team -- to be dejected. They can ignore the fans by keeping their heads down as they leave the stadium, and rightfully so. However, even when Miami wins I've never seen them treat the fans to as much equipment swag as the Titans did on Sunday. I even got a glove from Jarius Wynn, and I was just sitting there with a camera. The glove just fell on my lap.

Well, it was a tough day to be a Fins fan. Let's see what the rest of the season holds.

Monday, August 20, 2012

High-Density Wi-Fi Coming to Sun Life Stadium

My bricked iPhone may have a life at Miami Dolphins games after all!

Speaking on CNBC this morning, owner Stephen Ross revealed that the team is starting to install high-density wi-fi to Sun Life Stadium today. When the process is complete in a dozen weeks, fans will be able to use their smartphones to watch replays, check out other games, and engage in social media.

The Dolphins have achieved the first two parts of that equation through Fanvision, the handheld screens that were handed out to season ticket holders two seasons ago. That has certainly been a neat perk for loyal fans, but my biggest complaint as a fan outside of the on-field performance of the team has been that my phone is useless once nearly 75,000 fans try to make calls, surf the Web, or check email at the same time.

Some wireless carriers may be better than others at the stadium, but AT&T is a disaster.

A lack of connectivity was one of my gripes during last year's Feedback February session, and it seems as if enough fans like myself have been screaming about it to the point where Ross is making it a priority.

Why won't it be ready for 12 weeks, by the time that half of the season is over? Hey. I'm just happy to see it coming.

Ross takes a lot of heat for the orange carpet, spicing up the fight song, and the Club Liv addition, but he gets it. If the team was winning fans would associate these moves with victories and deep playoff runs. However, eliminate the on-field performance and Ross is ahead of his time in understanding that football is bigger than just the game these days.

Ross said this morning that the Dolphins will be the first team to install high-density WiFi. If it means that my wife and I can go to the game and know that our family and friends can reach us -- or that I can check on my fantasy football team -- or physically "check in" to the stadium on Facebook or Foursquare the way that Heat, Marlins, and Panthers fans do -- Ross has a believer in me.

He had me at high-density!

Check out the Ross interview:

Inside the Squawk Huddle: Miami Dolphins Owner

Saturday, April 21, 2012

An Open Letter to Stephen Ross

We're now just days away from the 2012 NFL Draft, and I'm more worried than excited.

Everybody has an opinion, and I'll say something that few diehard Miami fans will ever concede: I don't know as much about football as Jeff Ireland.

It felt good to get that off my chest. However, the one thing that I do know better than Ireland -- and possibly even better than you, Mr. Ross -- is what the fans want. I've been a season ticket holder since 1987. I bleed orange. I cry aqua. I was literally the first fan to renew my season tickets last season, and was honored by the team for that. I'm fairly sure that I was one of the first to renew this time around.

My biggest fear is that the Miami Dolphins will compromise its future later this week. In a mad scramble to excite fans after two brutal years of miscues, the team will trade up to select a quarterback that seemed like a reach at the eighth overall spot. I have nothing against Ryan Tannehill. He may be the answer. However, if any move involves sacrificing picks from the 2013 draft it will make it that much harder to attract a magnetic GM next year.

No, this isn't a "Fireland" rant. I'm just being realistic. Despite the somewhat easy schedule, Miami will be lucky to win five or six games this season. The team traded away the Pro Bowl MVP, cut Yeremiah Bell, and was dealt the retirement of Jason Taylor. The pocketful of new free agents that have been brought in during the offseason are either backups or would be backups on playoff-caliber teams. The team isn't likely to be very successful this season, and it will only take a few 1pm home games before the scorched fans begin chanting for blood.

Outside of a Cam Cameron-level fiasco, Philbin will be spared the venom of the fans. It will be a different fate for Ireland, and that's why it's imperative that you retain an attractive assortment of what should be high draft picks for the 2013 season. Fans will want an offensive weapon. Tannehill, Blackmon, or Richardson would be great -- and at least one of them should still be there at No. 8. Floyd wouldn't be a bad backup plan if the other three happen to be gone.

This isn't a fan telling Ireland what to do. Every single GM in this league should know more about football operations than the smartest fan. I'm simply reminding you what fans will want, and what to expect if they don't get what they want. There is no way that an offensive lineman or defensive player -- regardless of how talented he may be -- will satisfy fans that saw the team's only Pro Bowl-worthy skill position player unloaded last month.

I don't blame you for the Harbaugh flap last season. It would've been the right call, and we saw that when San Francisco made it to the playoffs. I trust St. Louis will play well under Fisher, and that Denver will improve with Payton Manning. Your heart was in the right place pursuing all of these upgrades, at least as far as fans are concerned. Coming up short on all fronts was unfortunate, but the aim is true. The execution? Well, that's another story.

So, let's go back to Thursday night. The first round will be about the team's future in more ways than the obvious. Don't let anyone on your payroll mess that up.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Miami Dolphins 35, Buffalo 8

"So this is what it must've been like to be a Dolphin fan in the 1980s," my son said to me, as Miami was grinding the Bills the way the team routinely did in the 1970s and a good chunk of the 1980s.

It was a pretty awesome game. The offense was clicking. The defense was sticking. After three games of the offense scoring 20 points or more and the defense holding opponents TD-less, Sun Life Stadium was electric for the first time in years.

The Bills seemed to be in good spirits after the game. My son -- born too late to enjoy the Marino years -- even got Chandler's glove (Buffalo's tight end).