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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Dolphins

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Hard Rock Stadium 2267 NW 199th St Miami Gardens, FL 33056

Year Opened: 1987

Capacity: 74,916


The Dolphins’ Domain

Hard Rock Stadium has been the home of the Miami Dolphins since 1987. Over those 30 years the stadium has gone through many names… Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Land Shark Stadium, Sun Life Stadium and since 2016, Hard Rock Stadium. The 64,767-seat stadium is unique in that it is privately funded. This includes the massive renovations that have taken place over the last few years.

Hard Rock Stadium has hosted some of the top sports events in the world over the years. This includes five Super Bowls, four BCS-era National Championship games, two World Series and several games of the World Baseball Classic. The Miami Marlins shared the stadium with the Dolphins from 1993-2011. Presently both the Orange Bowl and the Miami Hurricanes home games are held at Hard Rock Stadium as well. Future events scheduled for the stadium include the 2020 Super Bowl and the 2021 NCAA National Football Championship game.

Food & Beverage 4

While Hard Rock Stadium has concession stands which offer the typical stadium fare, it also features a number of options with a decidedly Latin or South Florida flavor. Amongst these are Sloppy Joe’s (conch fritters and po’ boys from the Florida Keys), Café Versailles (Cuban sandwiches and empanadas), Fuku (spicy chicken), Coyo Taco (tacos and burritos) and Los Ranchos (churrasco’s and rice with beans). For those who enter the stadium early, there is the Breakfast House, which offers brunch items and mimosas.

On the beverage front, Hard Rock scores high for its broad selection of craft brews. They offer over 30 national brews, plus 16 from the South Florida area alone. Local brews include Funky Buddha, Due South, Saltwater, Concrete Beach, 26 Degrees and Wynnwood. Bottled beers are $8, and drafts go for $11.

Atmosphere 5

The home of the Dolphins is strikingly contemporary for a thirty-year old stadium. Its use of the teal and orange colors of the Dolphins team bring an energy to the stadium. Its 147 suites cater to the well-heeled business community of Miami and there is not a bad seat in the house.

Hard Rock Stadium has undergone a series of massive renovation projects in phases since 2015. All of these are aimed at improving the fan experience. These improvements have included the replacement of every seat in the stadium, rebuilding of several concourses, moving sideline seats 25 feet closer to the field and the addition of four HD video boards in each corner of the stadium. The most obvious improvement to the stadium is the installation of a canopy roof that covers 92% of the seating areas. This protects fans from the harsh South Florida sun, as well as the heavy downpours that are a frequent occurrence in Florida.

Another recent addition that has been very popular with the fans is the LIV at Hard Rock Club. This is a sister club to the LIV at South Beach. It provides a nightclub-like experience with two bars, a dance floor, private cabanas and a great view of the field from its location above the west end zone.

Neighborhood 3

The Dolphins chose the site of Hard Rock Stadium more than 30 years ago based on its quick access to the Florida Turnpike and I-95. They also chose the location based on its being halfway between the population centers of downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale. At that time the area was undeveloped, and land was cheap.

Unfortunately, 30 years later the immediate area around Hard Rock Stadium is mainly populated with fast food locations, a few discount hotels and the single attraction is on the same property as the stadium. The Calder Casino is the lone attraction in the immediate area of the stadium.

However, travel five miles east towards the Atlantic beaches and you will find an excellent inventory of lodging, a broad selection of restaurants and the sports, entertainment, and shopping mecca of Gulfstream Park. Two restaurants that come highly recommended are ROK: BRGR in Hallandale Beach and The Tuck Room in North Miami. The AC Hotel by Marriott in Aventura offers excellent accommodations just seven miles from the stadium.

Our game day advice is to sample one of the many unique food items at Hard Rock for lunch then investigate the coastal options following the game.

Fans 3

Miami and South Florida cannot be defined as a homogeneous area. It is a virtual melting pot of cultures, age groups and frankly, different reasons for living there. The same can be said of the Dolphins Fin-base. Older Dol-fans moved here to escape the harsh winters and remember the glory days of the franchise (Miami last won the Super Bowl in the 1970’s and have not won a playoff game in nearly 20 years). They have held out hope that the glory days will return and are probably the most loyal ticket holders for the team.

The younger generations never have experienced a glory day or year. They tend to come to games for a good time. Win or lose they are there to meet up with friends, hang out at the LIV at Hard Rock, or just watch the game from the parking lot… where tailgating is just competitive as the games.

The final component of the Dol-fan Fin-base are the transplants. Typically, these fans have season tickets through their companies, which have relocated to the area. They come and cheer loyally for the home team… until their former hometown favorites (think New England, New York and Philadelphia) come to town. Suddenly they are sporting their “old” team colors. There are many games where the visiting team has more fans in the stadium than the Dol-fans. (If you live in Buffalo in December… wouldn’t a divisional game in Miami sound inviting?)

One thing all of the fan groups agree on… they simply adore T.D., the team’s lovable Dolphin mascot.

Access 4

Hard Rock Stadium is located midway (18 miles) between downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale along Florida’s Turnpike. Drivers can take exit 2X (199th Street/ Stadium) and go directly into the parking lots for the stadium.

A second option which avoids the heavy traffic on I-95 and the Turnpike on game days is public transit. Miami -Dade Transit offers a combination of light rail and bus shuttles to the stadium. Riders should take the Metrorail to the Earlington Heights Station, then transfer to Bus Route 297, which runs directly to Hard Rock. The fare is $4.50 round trip.

Return on Investment 3

Standard ticket prices at Hard Rock Stadium range from $65 – $578. The Dolphins have a very large season ticket base, so you will frequently have to buy tickets on the secondary ticket markets at premium prices. The divisional games against the Jets and the Patriots always have the highest demand each season.

Parking is $40, but a $15 discount is given to drivers with a Florida Sunpass (toll pass) on their cars. The concessions at Hard Rock Stadium are higher priced than most stadiums due to the many specialty vendors and high quality of the food items.

Extras 4

There is an ironic twist to the naming rights for Hard Rock Stadium. Hard Rock restaurants throughout Florida are owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which also works closely with Florida State University as well. One of the main tenants of Hard Rock Stadium is the University of Miami football program, the primary rival of Florida State in the ACC.

The Dolphins are prominent supporters of public art. Hard Rock Stadium features more than 20 murals, also known locally as street art, throughout the stadium. Some murals have a football/Dolphins theme, while others depict non-sports subjects.

There are three statues of interest located just outside of the stadium. At Gate E, the “Perfect Moment in Time” depicts coach Don Shula being carried off the field in celebration after the conclusion of the Dolphins perfect 17-0 season. A second statue is the centerpiece of the Dolphins Walk of Fame. It is also known as Joe Robbie Alumni Plaza and is located near Gate C. Dolphins founder and funder of the stadium, Joe Robbie is surrounded by members of the Dolphins elite, including Don Shula, Dan Marino, Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Paul Warfield, Mercury Morris and Manny Fernandez. The third statue is of Dolphin icon QB Dan Marino. His statue is located near the fountains on the 199th Street side of the stadium.

The Dolphins are very community oriented. The Dolphins Cancer Challenge is the NFL’s largest single fundraising event, raising more than $23 million since 2010. The team is also quick to respond to events affecting their community. It organized relief efforts for the people of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma and provided support following the school shooting at nearby Margery Stoneman Douglas High School.

Final Thoughts

Hard Rock Stadium is an NFL venue that has stayed current with the times, and in many ways is an improvement over its original design. The team has been fortunate to have owners from Joe Robbie to Steven Ross who have been willing to invest whatever funds are needed to improve the fan experience. It is no surprise that such special events such as the Super Bowl, NCAA Football Championships and the Pro Bowl choose to come back on a regular basis.

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