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.