Miami’s iconic Marine Stadium, admired by architecture enthusiasts around the world, cleared a significant hurdle on the path toward landmark status by the City of Miami’s Historic and Environmental Preservation Board as nomination as a landmark structure was approved.
A dazzling modernist masterpiece designed and built in 1964 by architect Hilario Candela, the 6,566 seat stadium’s cantilevered roof is one of the largest spans of unsupported concrete in the world. Its origami-like patterns of waves and sails jut out like alligator jaws from a water basin designed as a race course in Virginia Key. All seats have a spectacular view of the surging Miami skyline.
Originally built for power boat racing, the stadium’s floating stage hosted legendary performers like Jimmy Buffett , Bonnie Raitt, Mitch Miller, and Jose Luis Rodriguez (El Puma), Sunrise Easter Services, Virgen De La Caridad Flotillas, classical music concerts from the Miami Pops and the Boston Pops, even television shows. Clambake, an Elvis Presley movie was shot there, and Sammy Davis, Jr. hugged President Richard Nixon at a rally. Since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the stadium has been shuttered.
Friends of Marine Stadium, working closely with the nonprofit Dade Heritage Trust (DHT), Miami-Dade County’s pre-eminent historic preservation organization, has led the initiative to designate and renovate the Stadium. DHT President Becky Roper Matkov said, “The Marine Stadium is mid-century Miami architecture at its best, embracing the water without obscuring the waterfront.”
The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s President Richard Moe notes that the Marine Stadium is of “particular interest” to the Trust and that its design “is considered the finest example of a mid-century sporting venue in the region.”
The stadium’s original architect, Hilario Candela, then a 28 year old Cuban immigrant in 1962, went on to become principal of the firm Spillis Candela. Still active and thriving today, Candela is involved in the movement to revive the stadium. In fact, the Marine Stadium is one of the first major structures in the United States to be designed by a Cuban born architect. According to the designation report prepared by architect, Jorge Hernandez, a University of Miami faculty member and Dade Heritage Trust Board Member, the stadium is the first example of the significant contributions made by generations of Cuban professionals who fled Castro’s revolution and came to Miami, starting a new chapter in the city’s history.
The Marine Stadium’s universal appeal and cultural significance to an entire generation of Miamians has ignited a passionate drumbeat for the preservation, renovation, and adaptive reuse of a great architectural icon.