By Harlan E. Woodard, RA
It's a given that most in this community want the Marlins to stay in Miami-Dade County. And most believe that the Marlins should have a dedicated, state of the art baseball stadium from which to operate. But more than the political jousting rooted in fiscal and even ethnic concerns getting most of our attention, the real concern that will have greater impact on our community at large is stadium location. To put it plainly, Miami-Dade should have its state of the art baseball stadium – just not at the Orange Bowl site.
This site is too isolated for the currently challenged popularity of baseball. And the high cost for needed infrastructure and even more ancillary development for success make this site even riskier and more suspect.
With substantial infrastructure already in place in downtown Miami, why are we not more vehemently attempting get a greater return on existing investments?
With this information, many are wondering why this potential site and offer have been virtually ignored by our public officials – particularly those who are responsible for this district and its needs.
Construction of the Marlin's Stadium at this location makes sense on many additional levels:
- A major attraction on the west side of subjugating Biscayne Boulevard.
- A potential economic stimulus for Overtown in the form of creative development and convenient, sorely needed employment for its residents.
- An added amenity for potential condo buyers that would assist in remedying the vacancy situation of recently developed residential construction along People Mover routes.
- Greater revenues that would offset transit deficits through increased Metrorail use.
- Greater People Mover and pedestrian activity making Miami a "Greener City" with more physically fit residents.
But let's broaden our canvas a bit and look at Miami-Dade County in its entirety for other possible benefits. With the baseball stadium's downtown placement, cause is given for linking it, by rail, to another traditionally American past time - football. Yes, a direct link to the Dolphins Stadium by way of the planned Northwest 27th Avenue extension of the Metrorail would create an ideal symbiotic relationship that could provide opportunity for mutual benefit. It could also set the foundation for needed economic development in areas of the County north of downtown that have long been desired yet unseen.
With the final rail stop likely being just north of NW 199th Street at the western perimeter of the Dolphin Stadium property, welcoming retail shopping, restaurants and entertainment could be developed for sports fans and everyday patrons in the land area between the station and the Stadium's entrance. Development of a notable hotel could also add to the mix.
Other noted Metrorail stations along this extension would include locations at Miami-Dade College North Campus - linking it to the Wolfson Campus downtown - and the City of Miami Garden's proposed Government Center to be located at NW 183rd Street and 27th Avenue.
As presented above, placing the Marlin's Stadium at the old Orange Bowl (and not the Miami Arena site) further postpones clear opportunities for development northward within the County. Also presented is the potential for the Marlin's Stadium failing at this site due to its isolation from existing amenities and infrastructure.
The challenged popularity of baseball in South Florida, along with the questionable projections of future tourism dollars as a financial buffer, also makes this deal a less likely catalyst to the spark additional development being championed for Little Havana's prosperity. But, if we open our hearts and minds a bit, there may be an alternative use for this site that serves as a better economic conduit for Little Havana and Miami-Dade overall.
Interestingly, the more I contemplate on the currently vacant Orange Bowl site - particularly while driving along the 836 - the more I envision a sports venue similar in function to the architecturally impressive Stade de France (Frances' National Stadium) being located there. This magnificent stadium is so striking with its suspended circular canopy; it literally takes your breath away. Those that have driven from the Charles de Gaulle Airport to Paris along Highway A36 have surely seen it. It accommodates up to 80,000 fans and is the prominent international venue for football soccer and rugby – the site of the 1998 World Soccer Championship where France defeated Brazil. It also accommodates major international track and field as well as concert events. U2, Tina Turner and others have sold out there. Its also interesting to note that, according to a 3/18/09 Miami Herald article on the Miami FC's, Pro-soccer will remain in South Florida and is on the rise. And by all accounts and surprising to most, soccer is the most popular and one of the most lucrative sports industries in the world. The question becomes...does Miami and Miami-Dade County really want to become a truly international destination with that level of intense flavor.
Stade de France
Think about it. If properly planned, a dedicated international pro-soccer/track and field stadium could be a fantastic opportunity for Little Havana, the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County.
With convenient access to and from Miami International Airport, an international stadium of this type is a more effective strategy for increasing tourism and development than any baseball stadium. And for once, an international stadium of this type - and at this location - would put Miami in serious contention for becoming a host city for the Summer Olympic Games. It's not far fetched to envision Little Havana opening and closing Miami's first Olympics. It would clearly not be as expensive, or possibly not as dramatic as what we saw in Beijing last year, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that we could top London.
With Key Biscayne as an established international tennis venue, the American Airlines Arena for basketball, potentially two American past times – football and baseball – connected by rail and an international venue for soccer and track and field in Little Havana; a soundly objective Olympic committee would surely consider Miami-Dade County as an ideal repeat location for the Summer Olympic Games.
Stadiums are a huge expense no matter who pays for them. But since tax dollars are footing the majority of this particular bill, we have to expand our vision and seriously consider what's best for Miami-Dade County overall. Please, local and even state officials, consider at least talking with Glenn Straub and building this stadium where it makes the most sense to do so.