You wouldn’t know it from visiting today, but Miami Marine Stadium used to host epic events – rock concerts, symphony performances, and cigarette boat races, to name just a few.
It hosted Aretha Franklin in 1967, Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1975, The Who in 1967, and Queen in 1975. All of them rocked out on a floating stage with Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline in the background. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has dubbed it a “national treasure.”
But it’s been 25 years since anyone graced that stage. Restore Marine Stadium the National Trust, Dade Heritage Trust, and Heineken are a few of the people trying to bring it back. The City of Miami is on board and has $45 million earmarked for it. The major restoration is scheduled to be done by 2020, although bit by bit it’s being reactivated – this weekend Miami’s first country music festival is coming to the site (the Tequila Bay Country Music Festival), although not to the actual stadium (that’s been deemed unsafe for large crowds) until renovations happen.
In the meantime, Restore Marine Stadium and Friends of Miami Marine Stadium (now inactive) co-founder Donald Worth has been collecting stories from people who produced events for, performed at, and watched shows at the landmark.
“Compiling these stories is like eating potato chips. I just can’t stop,” Donald said. “You can see that this place means so many different things to so many people.”
Here are five of the more than 150 stories that are part of “If seats could talk.”
Editor’s note: These stories have been edited for clarity and length.
Bass player, Miami Philharmonic
I’ve probably spent more time around the Marine Stadium than anyone else. I was a bass player for the Miami Philharmonic and played there numerous times. I also produced over 25 events at the Stadium; I know it inside out.
When we produced a show at the Stadium, my days would start at 5 a.m. Producing a show was a complicated task and the load-in was vicious (it could be much easier now due to advances in stage technology). When we finished a show, the load-out usually wasn’t completed until 4 a.m.
Over time, we got better at producing shows at the Stadium and the performers began to really enjoy it. Spyro Gyra gave a concert at the Marine Stadium – and they arrived at the Stadium by cigarette boat. Jay Beckenstein (sax player with Spyro Gyra) talks about the Marine Stadium and reminisces that it was one of the most exciting shows they’ve ever done. Artists would say that ALL the time. It’s just a unique and special place to perform.
Drummer and Lead Vocalist, Rare Earth
I was at the Rare Earth Concert at the stadium. It was one of the most memorable shows I’ve ever done. The evening was perfect and the floating stage was great to play. I remember all the people sitting in the stadium and I am so happy to know that it might be restored. Most of our live album (Rare Earth In Concert) was recorded there and it still brings a smile to my face when remembering the night…
Mercury Marine Executive, worked boat races
My first memory of the Marine Stadium was when I was at Mercury Marine Motors. I was second in command of the place. We used to put on water ski shows using skiers from Cypress Gardens, The Tommy Bartlett Show, and others. We got a request to do show for the opening of the Miami Marine Stadium.
When I saw the Stadium for the first time it was very impressive-it was like something you had never seen before. The only thing close to it was at Navy Pier in Chicago, where they built temporary grandstands at the end of the Pier for water-based events.
I remember opening night. There was a huge crowd and an opera chorus sang selections from Die Fledermaus. It was spectacular.
I still remember opening night. It was such a great night. Such an enjoyable location and well done. It was really inspiring.
Miss Collegiate Black America Producer
I produced an event at the Miami Marine Stadium at age 22, as a student at the University of Miami. It was 1985, and the riots in Overtown had just happened. A few of my fraternity brothers at Kappa Alpha Psi and I thought the City should do something positive, so we submitted a grant application to Miami Dade County to produce a Miss Collegiate Black America Contest. To our surprise, Commissioner Barbara Shuler and Commissioner Miller Dawkins actually took us seriously. We were awarded a grant of $75,000, and we had to put on a show!
The Miami Marine Stadium was actually my last choice for the event but The Gusman, the James L. Knight Center, and the Coconut Grove Convention Center were not available. It was a very complicated production.
But still, that night was like magic. We had the University of Miami Jazz Band and Jon Secada (then Juan Secada a student at the University of Miami), sang the crown song for the queen. When the night was over, we knew we had done it!
I went on to produce ten more Miss Collegiate Black America Pageants-several of which were shown on national television (Five years into the Pageant, we changed the name to Miss Collegiate African American” and this was the first TV show with the words “African American” in the title).
Producing that event at that moment was really a key point in the evolution of Miami. Miami Vice had not yet started, and Miami was just beginning its rebirth as a truly international city. For me, it was just at the cusp as Miami was growing up.
The first time I came to the Marine Stadium to paint was in 1997. I was brought there by my friend, TVEE, who really was one of the early painters at the Stadium. According to him, he would hang out at the Stadium in 1996-1997. He started going there just drinking beer, watching sunsets, etc. He was a surfer, and he just came across the place while surfing on Virginia Key.
At that time, the walls were bare of graffiti, except for a couple of random skater tags on the roof. The first thing he did was paint a series of big army tanks on the roof. He painted one tank, and he got a good response from friends so he went back and painted all of them. It may have taken him a month to paint them.
Eventually, they got covered over by a crew of street artists-DAMCREW-they painted their name in big letters some time in 1998-1999.
TVEE also painted a piece below sea level. When you walk into the Stadium, you can go to a lower level by the water. TVEE painted his name in large letters and he used silver paint. When the water rose during high tide, it began to eat away at the silver paint which made a very cool, new color.
I go there to paint now and it is really interesting. You never know who will come around the corner-law enforcement, a fashion shoot, a rival crew. Now, I just like going over there, hanging out, watching the water and painting a little bit. I paint in other areas of Miami but it’s usually on a freeway, a train track or a roof top. In the Stadium, you are really near the water. Painting on the rooftop is great because you get a really nice view of Miami, Brickell, and the Beach.