Facing mounting political pressure to restore Miami Marine Stadium, which has been closed since Hurricane Andrew destroyed it in 1992, the City of Miami decided to focus on breathing new life into the historic facility.

Two weeks ago, the city made a presentation at the Virginia Key Advisory Board meeting detailing plans to restore the stadium and Virginia Key Beach.

The restoration of the 6,566-seat stadium, which was built in 1963, took on deeper meaning three weeks ago when Cuban-American architect Hilario Candela, who designed the iconic stadium, died aged 87 from complications of COVID-19.

Candela considered the stadium his masterpiece, a poured concrete facility with a vast geometric cantilevered roof at 3501 Rickenbacker Causeway.

They said he wanted to see the stadium restored and host events before the city of Miami closed nearly 30 years ago.

Today, the stadium is covered in graffiti, and children use the building as a meeting place for skateboarding, dancing, and other activities.

The stadium also houses a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site.

Miami plans to hire a contractor in 2022 to test and evaluate the stadium’s physical plant to identify where the stadium needs restoration, according to Loraine Rosado-Pietrie, capital improvement project manager for the City of Miami.

She said the city will send out a request for quotation (RFQ) in March. A previous RFQ was canceled due to a disputed request.

Part of the city’s stadium restoration costs could come from bond money.

Miami has decided to allow a private company to operate the renovated stadium, but residents will choose the operator by referendum, Rosado-Pietrie said.

Ultimately, the fate of the stadium rests with Miami city commissioners, who must approve the contractor, plans to redesign the building, a construction schedule and funding, among other matters.

City officials did not respond to multiple interview requests to answer questions or comment further.

Donald Worth, co-founder of Restore Miami Marine Stadium, said the stadium is old and deteriorating and could collapse like the Surfside condo tragedy if the building is not restored.

“It would be embarrassing for the city,” he told the advisory board. “I’m going to lose sleep over this if it happens.”

Worth said that from 1986 to 1992 the city lost a lot of money operating Miami Marine Stadium and decided to keep it closed after Hurricane Andrew left the building in its wake.

He said the stadium wasn’t Miami’s only financial failure.

“The city never succeeded in any of the places it operated,” he said. “They always lost money.”

He said the city’s decision to allow a private company to operate the stadium was a good decision.

Worth said he knows promoters who can successfully run the stadium by marketing and promoting at least 30 shows – concerts and festivals – a year.

He said an operator had successfully produced several Super Bowl halftime shows for the NFL.

Worth said a promoter he knows can ask popular artists like the Dave Matthews Band and Billy Joel to perform at the stadium.

“A lot of artists love playing in small venues,” he said. “People will come to see them play and create a stream of income.”

Christian Rupp, Executive Director of Dade Heritage Trust, gave a presentation on the importance of restoring Miami Marine Stadium.

His presentation included a video highlighting stadium concerts and events like Sammy Davis Jr., powerboat races and boxing matches.

It also included interviews with Candela, Miami’s own Gloria Estefan and recording artist Jimmy Buffet, who shared his experience playing at the stadium.

Candela said architecture is a work of art that you create to be enjoyed for many years.

“A person who can be alive and fully enjoy the interaction in the community, speak and listen to the community and engage the community for life,” he said. “That’s a very important quality of good design. The community can rethink it mentally, rethink the shape of the building, and rethink the use of the building.”

Estefan said the Matheson family gave the land to Miami for the sole purpose of building Miami Marine Stadium.

She said a plan to demolish the building in 2008 sparked an outpouring of distress and prompted a call for action from stadium defenders.

“It was by people who not only love our city, but understand the importance of saving the gem for generations to come,” Estefan said.

Buffet said he and his group had their greatest performances at the stadium.

“And I think this stadium deserves a future,” he said.

Rupp said the support speaks volumes about the importance of saving the stadium.

“We know you’re keeping your eyes on it and we appreciate that,” Rupp told the board.

VKAB President Joe Rasco said the board sees efforts being made to improve Miami Marine Stadium.

“It’s a horror for the community,” he said after the meeting. “We want to see the gem restored to its former glory so the community can enjoy it again.”

Rosado-Pietrie also gave a brief update on the Virginia Key Beach restoration project.

She said the city is still in the design phase and city commissioners will see the final report when they meet this month.

Restoration projects target North Pointe Beach Park, Basin A boat launch and Basin Trail restoration.