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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
While the struggles of the University of Miami football program have been well documented over the last few years; one thing is constant, the game day experience is a small look into Miami's sports and party scenes. It can be either one of the most incredibly electric college football experiences, or it can result in a sad vision of what was once a proud program in South Florida.
With the renovations to Hard Rock Stadium; however, come a renewed life to the UM football fan experience, one that is much needed. What was once the state-of-the-art home of football in the area had sunk into a dull period of time that saw it look less and less like a quality sports facility.
Thankfully, the renovations to the stadium have made The U at least a lot more comfortable to watch, even if they are losing from time to time.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food and beverage at Miami sporting events is already pretty good, due to the heavy Cuban influence. The new renovations have made the actual food booths a lot easier to navigate and the patio seating areas a lot nicer. What used to be just corridors of concession stands are now mini food courts.
On the suite level, a massive indoor food court is located along the massive windows that give fans a grand vista of South Florida. The new lower level suite areas include full-scale restaurants that help fans smell glorious tastes throughout the halls from the media room to the ticket offices.
Prices aren't completely out of range, but they aren't cheap either. A half-pound burger and fries runs $13, while a personal pizza from Papa John's will run $8.75. There are refillable popcorn buckets available for $10, bottomless drinks for $11, and a regular soda is $4. Draft beer averages about $8. Alcohol is ever-present in large bars that also sport HD TVs for fans to catch some of the other sports action that may be going on that day.
The fans at UM games are pretty excitable. It is a Miami crowd, and therefore, they like to party. The tailgating at UM football is top notch, but can easily get out of hand for anyone who is north of 30 years old. The stench of college drunkenness and lunacy wafts through the air on a hot Miami afternoon with a parking lot full of boozed-up college kids partying to pounding music like they're at a nightclub. Fortunately, there is a nice fan zone outside the main concourse adjacent to the team store, with games for kids in a more family friendly atmosphere.
Perhaps the nicest thing about the stadium renovations is the new roof that helps keep the intense South Florida sun off of the home crowd during games. In addition, the stadium's roof only allows sun on the opponent's bench area and fan seating.
Miami Gardens isn't exactly a prime location in which to showcase the city of Miami and all it has to offer. Sure, across the street from Sun Life Stadium is a very nice shopping center. There is a beautiful brand new Sonic Beach that attracts a ton of fans before and after the games. There is an outside patio and a bar that opens up to the outdoors; several TVs make it an ideal setting in which to relax before or after the game with the family and other fans.
The immediate neighborhood beyond the first block is a mix of average lower to middle class suburban homes. It is advised to head elsewhere in Miami to enjoy what the city has to offer. You are also a 20 minute drive to Ft. Lauderdale and its downtown scene and beaches.
The fans at Miami games are notoriously harsh. Who can blame them? Years of extreme talent jaded them to the realities of being a mediocre program. Now that the Hurricanes are in the midst of being average, the Canes faithful feel like they're wronged in some way.
That translates to game days when one bad referee call brings the full anger and fury of the crowd down upon the field. The bigger schools (Florida State, Clemson, and Florida) bring out much larger crowds. Hurricane fans will travel for bigger games, but one cannot help but imagine there would be a much more full stadium if it was on campus or closer to the university.
Hard Rock Stadium is right off the Florida Turnpike, but even with a well-placed exit sign, the traffic can be brutal day or night. Add to that the game day traffic and terribly spaced lights all around the stadium, and you're liable to be stuck there for hours, unless you arrive really early. The stadium is far from the UM campus and from everything else in Miami.
The UM game day experience has improved without a doubt, thanks to the renovations at the stadium. The seats are newer, wider, and much more comfortable than their predecessors. The angle of the seating itself is better, bringing fans much closer to the playing field than ever before for a game.
If you can swallow the price of tickets and a meal for a family of four, by all means, go for it. If you want to just go with a few friends on a budget, it is suggested to grab a bite to eat at the Sonic across the street before heading to the game.
Overall, who can argue with college football in paradise-Miami? The sun may be hot, but so is the action on the field, and good football cures all issues with comfort.
Sebastian the Ibis, the school mascot, is always up to some sort of antics. You can find him partying in the student section, setting off fire extinguishers or harassing the opposing coaches. He is also always willing to stop for a high-five and a photo with the kids.
Are you looking for a real Miami experience? There is a club within the club level of the stadium. Club Liv has a satellite club on site for game days. It Is like South Beach brought to the football field.
There is also a statue of Miami Dolphins great Dan Marino outside of the team store outside the main gates. This is definitely a stop on the way for sports junkies.
Finally, who can argue with the majesty of college football bands. The UM Band, the Band of the Hour, marches onto the field before the game, playing the team fight song, and leading Sebastian in the "C-A-N-E-S CANES!" chant before kickoff. With a full crowd, it gives you chills.
UM football is growing again and so is the stadium experience. Marked improvement to the stadium both inside and out in all aspects has made the game day experience much more enjoyable than years past. Hopefully, with a winning record in the future, the team can return to its halcyon days of greatness, and with it the return of the electricity from yesteryear.
Member Review by luisakalefty
There are certain college football teams who unfortunately don't have the luck of calling a stadium their own home. For the Miami Hurricanes, that is the case with Sun Life Stadium. Although it is a relatively nice, modern stadium, it is a half hour drive from the University of Miami campus, and it is owned by the NFL's Miami Dolphins. With most crowds for the Hurricanes hovering between 40,000-50,000 fans, it's unfortunate that a 70,000 seat stadium doesn't feel packed like it does with most other big time programs. I was lucky enough to be there for the Ohio State game which drew nearly a full house.
Hurricanes fans are a passionate loyal group, although not as big in number simply because the university is a small private institution.
Member Review by 1Crescent on Oct 25, 2012
The sound system is ear splittingly loud I will not go there again. It is gross.
Member Review by Scott Salomon on Nov 30, 2013
Times have officially changed over the last decade for the University of Miami. The Hurricanes have gone from playing in the close confines of the Orange Bowl, located in the historic Little Havana section of Miami, to playing at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. Whereas the Orange Bowl had local flair and history on its side, Sun Life Stadium has a tendency to be plain and vanilla and designed more for its primary tenant, the Miami Dolphins, who are the owners of the facility.
On August 21, 2007, UM President Dr. Donna Shalala announced at a press conference that the UM would be leaving the Orange Bowl for greener pastures at the then-titled Dolphin Stadium. Less than a year later, the stadium in Little Havana was torn down and all that was left were the memories generated by the stadium that captured UM national titles, Super Bowl victories and the Miami Dolphins’ 1972 perfect season.
By contrast, the Orange Bowl was filled with history and nostalgia going back to when it was built in 1937. The Hurricanes were its primary tenant and pro football would not become a reality until 1966. The historic old venue saw Miami win several national titles there including the epic 1984 Orange Bowl game that gave The U its first ever national title when it defeated Nebraska 31-30 on the game’s final play.
Sun Life Stadium has no such history for the University of Miami. The Canes are still looking to build their own history in that venue.
Times were drastically different in the 1990’s when the University of Miami was winning national titles, held the nation’s largest home winning streak at 58 games, and the Orange Bowl was filled to capacity with people wearing Orange and Green.
When the Canes played Florida in September of 2013, there were more people doing the Gator Chomp than singing the UM alma mater. Something is wrong with that scenario. Hopefully an improving UM football team and a strong recruiting class will improve the dynamics for the 2014 season and beyond. The University of Miami did set attendance records in 2013 for most fans in a season and largest average attendance per game, but Miami did have seven home games to do it. Most college football teams have no more than six home games. The Canes also benefited from that game against Florida. Miami also opened the season at home against Florida Atlantic University from nearby Boca Raton which brought its own fan support as well.
Sun Life Stadium, opening in 1987, and the dream of former Miami Dolphins’ owner Joseph Robbie, holds in excess of 75,000 fans. Take out the obligatory in-state rival games against Florida and Florida State and you would be hard pressed finding more than 60,000 fans in this venue for a Canes game. When the Canes were playing in the Orange Bowl they were used to playing before sold out crowds.
Canes fans turn to Facebook and other social media to voice their displeasure over the loyalty to the team and to the poor attendance. The fact of the matter is that the stadium is far from campus and public transportation does not make it easy for the students to get to the stadium. While they have consistently filled up the student section, the section is not that large to begin with.
Member Review by ChrisGreenPhotography on Dec 16, 2014
The “U” is a football team steeped in history. As the fans say, the University of Miami “invented swagger” during their heyday, but as of late, their home games show more of an opposite effect.
Essentially, the “U” has some seats to fill….a lot of them. During big-time match-ups against Florida or Florida State, Miami fans pack the stadium, but still are outnumbered 60-40 by rival fans. Sun Life Stadium is a little big for the crowds at regular contests, however, similar to Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, or North Carolina.
Despite this, it is Miami, and the fans know how to party. You don’t get to be the #1 party school in America by hosting a boring tailgate.
Member Review by ChrisGreenPhotography on Dec 10, 2015
While the struggles of the University of Miami football program have been well documented over the last few years, one thing is constant. The game day experience is a small look into Miami’s sports and party scenes. It can be either one of the most incredibly electric college football experiences, or it can result in a sad vision of what was once a proud program in South Florida.
With the renovations to Sun Life Stadium, however, come a renewed life to the UM football fan experience, one that was much needed. What was once the state-of-the-art home of football in Miami had sunk into a dull period of time that saw it look less and less like a quality sports facility.
Thankfully, the renovations to the stadium have made “The U” at least a lot more comfortable to watch, even if they are losing from time to time.
7601 Miami Lakes Dr
Miami Lakes, FL 33014
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