Hard Rock Stadium enhancements add to Dolphins’ future Super Bowl bids

Hard Rock Stadium will host Super Bowl LIV. (Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS—When the Miami Open and Crandon Park arrived at an irreconcilable dispute over renovating the facility, it looked like the tennis tournament would be leaving after more than three decades as a premier sporting event in South Florida.

That was the genesis of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ dream, though. He’s always been intent on expanding Hard Rock Stadium into more than a football venue, and he hated the idea of the tournament relocating to another area. It didn’t take long for him to combine those two interests and pitch the Miami Open on moving to his property.

“I thought Steve was crazy,” Serena Williams said. “But Steve is a visionary.”

Ross, Williams and other key figures in the project were at the stadium this morning for a ground-breaking ceremony, and the tournament will debut on Hard Rock Stadium’s premises next March.

The main court will be a temporary structure on the football field, but the rest of the design is the real gem of the project. Everything Ross plans to build on what is currently parking space could make the stadium even more attractive as it bids for future Super Bowls and College Football Playoff games.

The Dolphins are already scheduled to host the Super Bowl in 2020 (Super Bowl LIV) and the National Championship Game in 2021 and will continue pursuing those events as often as possible.

The Super Bowl is of the utmost importance and almost certainly wouldn’t be returning to South Florida if not for the $500 million Ross put into stadium renovations. This will be the first one since 2010, when the Saints beat the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

“We’re working on it, yeah,” Dolphins president Tom Garfinkel said of chasing future hosting rights. “We want to get one every chance we get. It’s very competitive, and we’re going to work to get as many as we can. We hope that everybody has such a great experience in 2020 that they want to bring more back.”

The upcoming Super Bowl will be in Atlanta’s new stadium, and the game goes to Tampa in 2021 and Los Angeles the year after. The next Super Bowl open for bids is the February 2023 game.

The next opening to host the college title game is 2024.

From 1968 through 2010, the Super Bowl was in South Florida on average about every four years and the next one will give the area an NFL-high 11 times hosting the game. The current gap between Super Bowl XLIV and LIV is the longest since the ‘80s.

The Miami Open might help. The tournament’s move necessitates a 6,000-seat grandstand and 28 other permanent tennis courts being built on the south side of the property. There are also plans for a large promenade that connects to the stadium and can be used for a variety of purposes, including entertainment and dining.

In addition to those more involved projects outside the stadium, the Dolphins are still tweaking the inside of the building. There won’t be any hugely noticeable renovations for the upcoming season, but the team still has subtle upgrades on its to-do list.

“There’s a lot of little things that we’re doing to continue to improve on, so I wouldn’t call it one big thing to showcase, but as we go around, people will notice a lot of little improvements,” Garfinkel said. “We’re fine-tuning a lot of things.”

“Steve really wants—If you walk around the stadium and see things that still don’t look like they’re brand new, we want to make them look brand new. There might be a floor that didn’t get redone and still looks old. Certain things that still look old, we’re gonna enhance them.”

The construction of tennis-related features could be an inconvenience during the upcoming season for the Dolphins and Hurricanes, but the team expects to smooth all of that out by early next year. The overall plan also includes resurfacing and upgrading the outer parking lots and putting in pedestrian bridges and tunnels connecting them to the stadium block.

The promenade has the versatility to accommodate all kinds of advertiser and fan needs for big events, and the grandstand stadium can easily be reconfigured for concerts and other activities.

All of those amenities could be a selling point for the Dolphins when they present plans for Super Bowls, and they’ll get a chance to put all of it on display two years from now.

“For sure,” Garfinkel said. “If you look at the south plaza that’s being created with fountains and landscaping, the whole area, the actual competition court… There’s a way to use it for Super Bowl and other big events like that that enhances the whole experience pre-game.”

That’s the coalescence Ross imagined when bringing the Miami Open to Hard Rock Stadium first became a possibility.

“What we do here in Miami, I think, will set the tone for the future of great sports,” he said. “It’s really about how you treat the fans and giving the great experience that they’re looking for.

“My objective was really to make Miami the sports capital and bring great events to Miami. We have all this land, and I figured there had to be a way to do it. We got the designers involved, and I don’t think you can have a venue like this. It’s going to be like no other.”

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