Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
Hard Rock Stadium 2267 NW 199th St Miami Gardens, FL 33056
Year Opened: 1987
The Orange Bowl Game is the second-longest running college football bowl game, and the history of the game runs deep in sports. Now, played in a changing Hard Rock Stadium, the game is one that cannot be missed by die-hard sports fans, regardless of who plays in the game.
Food & Beverage 4
Food and beverage at Miami sporting events is already pretty good, due to the heavy Latin influence. Now, the new renovations have made the actual food booths at lot easier to navigate and the patio seating areas to eat at 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.
Alcohol is ever-present (it is college in Miami, after all) 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.
Prices aren't completely out of range, but they aren't cheap either. A half-pound burger and fries runs $13, not including a drink, while a personal pizza from Papa John's will run $8.75, be it cheese or pepperoni. There is a refillable popcorn bucket available for $10 and a bottomless drink costs $11 (a regular soda is $4). Draft beer averages about $8.
The feeling at the Orange Bowl game can be described as electric and nothing less. Fans cheer for their team louder than most games the stadium sees (yes, I am talking to you UM fans...), and during the band performances, they sing along and chant with the melodies. The Orange Bowl game also sells out every year, leading to a full house, making the oohs and aahs even louder. The entire place shakes when a touchdown incites the roar of the crowd.
The whole day leading up to the game is also full of partying fans in the parking lot, and the college atmosphere is noticeable throughout. It is hard to find a better bowl experience in the country.
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 Hard Rock Stadium is a very nice shopping center. Inside is a giant Walmart. There is a bank as well, with a beautiful brand new Sonic Beach that has a ton of fans before and after the games. The outside patio setting is mixed with the bar inside that opens up to the outdoors and has several TVs, making it an ideal setting in which to relax before or after the game with the family and other fans.
But the immediate neighborhood BEYOND that first block is not the same. There isn't anything wrong, per se, with the neighborhood, but it isn't exactly a crown jewel of Miami-Dade County. The homes are average. The people are just...there. Think something akin to the first Fast and the Furious movie, everyone in the middle of lower-middle-class suburbia cooking out on an old grill. That's the same setting. Not a bad place, but I could think of nicer locations to be walking through in the evening.
Traffic is also a rough go, considering Hard Rock Stadium is next to a highway. As far as where to stay, Sun Life Stadium only has one hotel next to it, and it's out of date. It's better to experience what Miami has to offer and stay in the city or South Beach if you're staying overnight. Additionally, the stadium isn't anywhere near the University of Miami campus. Anywhere else is at least a 10-15 minute drive away towards the metropolis of the city.
The fans at the Orange Bowl know what is at stake; a win in one of the biggest bowl games in the nation, let alone a college football playoff game every few years. This means they are going to do everything they can to get their team going with a loud cheer. The teams respond in kind with hard play on the field. The Orange Bowl also brings out some of the coolest fans in football. There is a small but aged group of fans who have seen the greats play, all the way back to the days of the Miami Orange Bowl, and they show up to the games being played now. To say the least, the fans at the Orange Bowl are loyal, energetic, and sport knowledgeable. It is one of the truest college football experiences you can find during bowl season.
Hard Rock Stadium is right off the Florida Turnpike. But a well-placed exit ramp does not an easy drive make. This is Miami, and traffic here is awful on a perfect day at midnight. 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 beach and downtown city center. Essentially, it's pretty far from everything. This has been a complaint of fans in many places for all teams at Hard Rock Stadium. For a fan in a population center like Homestead or Cutler Bay to the south, a trip to the Orange Bowl game can be an hour's drive each direction, depending on traffic.
Parking can be pricey, costing upwards of $30 at the stadium and nearby parking lots. The only solution to fans as of 2015 is the addition of several free parking lots nearby, due to the construction on-site related to the stadium renovations.
Return on Investment 5
Getting to witness history is what happens every year, regardless of who plays and what the score is. This is the Orange Bowl Game! Being played on New Year's Eve, the event is more than just a football game, but a way of life for many fans in South Florida and around the country. The history behind the game adds to the allure. Sure, tickets aren't the cheapest, and no, the parking isn't free. But you are going to get to see one of the premier sporting events in the entire country. With the addition of the game as one of the College Football Playoff semifinals every three years, the value of going to the Orange Bowl has only grown that much more.
The Orange Bowl is always known for a killer halftime show. From the likes of Dierks Bentley to John Fogerty, you will be treated to a great concert between halves.
Another plus is the pre-game festivities in the fan zone. Additional concerts, meet and greets, College Gameday on ESPN, and even monster truck shows.
One of the cooler things at Hard Rock Stadium is also a statue of the great Dan Marino. Fans can take a photo next to one of the best players in NFL history right outside the team store at Sun Life Stadium.
Another extra is the pre-game activities inside the stadium. This year, in addition to the National Anthem, a field-sized flag was displayed during God Bless America, followed by military skydivers parachuting into the field with the game ball and flags for the two teams represented.
Arguably one of the neatest things the Orange Bowl has over other games is the trophy. The giant glass bowl on the trophy is presented to the winning team filled with actual oranges. Players will throw them onto the crowd for the cheering fans, making for an interesting memento if you catch one.
The Orange Bowl Game...what else comes close? You cannot argue the pageantry of the game. The history, the excitement, and the sheer enormity of what is on the line all make this one of the best college bowl games to go to. A definite must-see for die-hard sports fans, let alone college football fanatics.