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Official Review by Luis Estrada, Stadium Journey Correspondent
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.
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".
There is an outstanding selection of food and drinks. Concession stands all around the stadium offer the standards including burgers, hot dogs, pizza, nachos, etc. The food is actually pretty good, better than most stadiums I've been to. Pricey, yes, but good. A burger will run you $9, and a personal Papa John's pizza is also $9. Some of the unique foods here include salads and grilled chicken for the healthy eaters. The club level has access to specialty meats and sandwiches, but we'll assume the average fan won't be sitting in the club level.
Being an off-campus stadium, beer is sold during games. $9 for domestics such as Budweiser and Bud Light. Sun Life stadium also uniquely offers Land Shark beer.
This is a tricky one to answer because Miami fans are passionate and the team does have a good following, but playing in such a cavernous stadium hurts the atmosphere on game day. The fans are not the loudest in the country, although the student section is pretty inspiring with their "C-A-N-E-S CANES!" chants after a touchdown.
Sun Life Stadium is a relatively nice, clean stadium, but does not do justice to the Hurricanes tradition of excellence. The Orange Bowl had nostalgia, it had the Hurricanes Ring of Honor, and even on games that weren't sell-outs, it rattled when the crowd got loud. It is tough to transform an NFL feel into a college feel, and Sun Life does a decent job with its green and orange color scheme for Hurricanes games, but something is just lacking.
The stadium is located in a residential area, and not a great neighborhood at that. The only positive I can see is that there are many chain restaurants within a couple miles of the stadium; Denny's, Church's Chicken, KFC, etc. There is a huge Wal-Mart adjacent to the west parking lot. But overall Sun Life is isolated near the Dade and Broward County line, and in an area nobody would associate with going out and having a good time.
If this category was based on sheer volume of fans, it would be a 2. If it was based on the passion of the fans, it would be a 4. So I'm going to meet in the middle. Hurricanes fans are all about fun. Miami is a party town and that is what a Hurricanes tailgate is. Many even tailgate without a ticket to the game (but not because it was sold out). Cars are decked out in Hurricanes flags, decals, paint jobs, even writing on windows.
The students all wear bright orange shirts and really stand out in a game like the one against Ohio State with the entire endzone packed with students. It is hard to knock the Hurricanes fans for not being as numerous as other schools, especially given that it is a school with only 10,000 students. The alumni base is obviously going to be a fraction of that at public state schools.
One of the better aspects of Sun Life is its accessibility. Miami is a city with numerous highways and state roads, so getting to the stadium is not an issue at all. I-95, Florida's Turnpike, and SR 826 all have exits within 1-2 miles of the stadium. Parking is also plentiful with lots surrounding the stadium and colored passes directing fans where to park. Advance passes go for $20 per game, while game day parking is a ridiculous $30. Granted, you are right on site as opposed to other stadiums located on campus that have minimal parking and garages that can take forever to escape from after the game.
There are also 4 main entrance gates, easing the flow of pedestrian traffic walking into the stadium.
Yes, parking and food is slightly overpriced. But tickets to the game are not too expensive, usually running about $60 for a good seat, but as low as $20 in the upper deck when Duke and Virginia come in for ACC play. Also, the product on the field is usually pretty good. The Canes haven't been quite the powerhouse they used to be in recent years, but they defend home field pretty well, with wins over Oklahoma two years ago and Ohio State on the night I went (9/17/2011).
The main stadium lots fill up quickly for tailgating and music is blaring hours before kickoff. It is not quite the campus experience, but a pretty good return on investment.
One of the interesting features of Sun Life is on the North and South side of the stadium where there are shaded concourse areas. Fans can relax, sit in shade and comfort to take a breather from the brutal South Florida heat.
Britto artwork adorns the outside of the helices up to the upper level of the stadium. Parking is mostly in grass lots, but for a bit extra fans can park closer and in designated spaces on concrete just a few feet literally from the entrance gate.
**Picture Credit J.C. Ridley/HurricaneSports.com
Member Review by 1Crescent on Oct 25, 2012
The sound system is ear splittingly loud I will not go there again. It is gross.
7601 Miami Lakes Dr
Miami Lakes, FL 33014
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