Hurricanes not at ease in Hard Rock Stadium



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New stadium for University of Miami Image: College Gridirons

John H. Ruiz, founder of Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) Recovery and University of Miami (US) alumnus, believes he can build a new Miami Hurricanes football stadium in nearby Tropical Park, a three-mile drive away.

‘The Miami Hurricane’ stated that after the demolition of the Orange Bowl and subsequent shifting to the 65,326-capacity Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida (US) in 2008, the University of Miami fans, administration and athletes have vied for a more accessible stadium.

A private research university with more than 17,000 students from around the world, the University of Miami is a vibrant and diverse academic community.

The Miami Hurricanes football team represents the University of Miami in the sport of American football. The Hurricanes compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision and the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Remarked Ruiz, “The Orange Bowl had this feel to it that had never been replicated at Hard Rock. You were close to the field, you would be able to feel the game, you know? That’s the way we want to put it together here.”

The University of Miami currently leases Hard Rock Stadium, located 22-miles from campus and provides busing to University of Miami student’s to watch home games.

Commented Kamren Kinchens, a sophomore safety on the Miami Hurricanes football team, “Our stadium is just not packed. It’s too far for our students to drive 40 minutes to the stadium.”

‘The Miami Hurricane’ further stated that the proposed stadium, called LifeWallet Stadium, would be a part of a bigger entity known as LifeWallet Park. The 7,000-capacity Tropical Park in Olympia Heights, Florida, would be fully renovated to make way for this construction.

The Tropical Park has long been a fixture of Miami-Dade County (MDC). A horse racing track from 1931-1972, the county eventually bought and expanded it into a 275-acre park. Today, it features a dog park, baseball fields, basketball courts, horse stables, a track, football fields, nature trails, picnic shelters/pavilions, playgrounds, tennis courts, racquetball courts, and soccer fields.

Ruiz plans to maintain many of these facilities and include even more in his construction of LifeWallet Park. In addition to LifeWallet Stadium, Ruiz said he hopes to build a new branch of Jackson Health, spaces for athletic training with audio-visual equipment and sites for “every sport that exists”.

Stated Donna Shalala, former President of University of Miami and Congresswoman, “Everyone wants to do these grandiose plans. I just wanted a stadium that’s closer in, that’s built for a college team, that’s easy for college students to get into.”

Tropical Park has long been a consideration for a new stadium location. In 2008, when the Orange Bowl was torn down, University of Miami and Florida International University (FIU) had a tentative deal to share a stadium at Tropical Park. The partnership with Florida International University was essential because University of Miami needed a public partner to proceed with constructing the stadium. However, the Florida International University’s President Modesto Maidique opted to build an on campus stadium instead.

Now, 14 years later, the hopes of building a football stadium near University of Miami may face similar challenges.

Put in Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, “Any change to a park would have to be approved by a majority of voters and Tropical Park is not up for sale.”

In practice, this means a countywide referendum would determine the future of the LifeWallet Park.

Added Ruiz, “I don’t think the county would vote against having a much renewed public park with state-of-the-art technology.”

Ruiz would prefer that the county wait on issuing a referendum because the plans are still in their early stages. Currently, the Stadium Committee, a group of South Floridians headed by Ruiz, is working with HKS Architects to create designs.

Said Shalala, “I don’t object to Tropical Park, I just don’t think it’s possible. There will be opposition from the neighborhood not because of the traffic but because you’re taking up Green space.”

While Shalala was President of the University of Miami, the Orange Bowl was in disrepair. The structure would sway during hurricanes. A group of University of Miami engineering students visited the stadium and determined the Orange Bowl was unsafe. As she managed the transition from the Orange Bowl, Shalala proposed a stadium next to the 36,742-capacity loanDepot Park but the City rebuked the plan.

Continued Shalala, “There’s a mystique about the Orange Bowl in that site that you won’t have at Tropical.”

Ruiz said that building on the old Orange Bowl site was not an option. He said the LifeWallet Park wouldn’t fit nor would it be as beneficial to the local community – “Tropical Park really provides a suitable location because we’re not just looking for a stadium. There are a lot of other aspects to what becomes very favorable for the community as a whole. A lot of the Dade-County schools don’t have football fields.”

Ruiz said that he believes these amenities would serve these schools and the greater community best at Tropical Park.

The HKS Architects plans will be ready in the next few weeks. In the meantime, the debate over what will happen at Tropical Park continues and the community around the site continues to deliberate what they want.

Stated Andy Dominguez, a father who has spent 30 years coming to Tropical Park, “It’s a yes and no answer. I do want it to happen. I am a University of Miami fan.”

Dominguez said that while he supports the construction of a new stadium, he fears losing the memories and amenities that make Tropical Park special to his community.

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