The Orange Bowl – Farewell to a Glorious History

Memories will not fade…

The Orange Bowl

As a native South Floridian, it is difficult to imagine the loss of the Orange Bowl Stadium. The historic culture – parking on the lawns of the local homes, the smell of food from the vendors outside the stadium and the frustrating traffic after a game.

I have so many incredible memories as a boy growing up watching The Miami Dolphins emerge into the NFL at this heralded stadium.  From the wins to the tough losses the stadium will always be remembered from the thunderous sounds of the fans stomping their feet and making the stadium rock. 

My first visit to the Orange Bowl was to see a exhibition football game in 1966. I remember players kicking footballs into the stadium seats and high into the upper-decks for fans to take home.  My father said if he was one inch taller we would have taken one of these prized balls home.  It didn’t matter to me.  Just being there with him was more memorable.

From George Wilson, the Dolphins first head coach to the tough jawed Hall of Fame Coach, Don Shula who paced the sidelines in the early 70’s creating a dynasty that will be remebered by fans forever.

Lets us not forget, the home of The University of Miami Hurricanes for 70 years. Well known for having one of the most successful Division I collegiate football programs of the past three decades, winning more national championships during this period than any other Division I team. Their rivalry with the Florida State Seminoles and the Florida Gators has always delivered exciting games.

I still have a gratifying smile every-time I hear the words, “wide right” and I am always pleased to see the frown on the faces of Seminole fans at some of the most exciting games the Orange Bowl has hosted.

It will be a sad day for me when the Miami Hurricanes play their last home game in the Orange Bowl this year.  I will have my fingers crossed for new head coach Randy Shannon as he rebuilds this team.

Yes, it will be a sad day for South Florida. Let us not forget!

I have added an excerpt below from Larry Lebowitz of the Miami Herald.  He has a great handle on the reasoning behind the decision to pull the plug on The Orange Bowl and post the sign, “Do Not Resuscitate”.

Excerpt from Larry Lebowitz article in The Miami Herald – Monday, August 27, 2007 

The University of Miami football program is forsaking the leaky, creaky, nostalgic dump that is the Orange Bowl for Wayne Huizenga’s ruthlessly efficient profit center at the Stadium Formerly Known as Joe Robbie.

History marches briskly. City and county leaders quickly squeezed the sour news of the Canes sad but inevitable departure from the OB into new political lemonade.

Millions of tax dollars that had been set aside to renovate the Orange Bowl could now be reallocated, they said, pumping more money and life into the 3,258th proposal to build a 37,000-seat retractable-roof ballpark for the Florida Marlins.

Purely from a transportation perspective, the Orange Bowl site is a lousy one.

Without serious highway and mass-transit improvements, it would be bad for the Little Havana neighborhood near the OB, bad for the ball club, bad for fans.

Access and public transportation are among the primary reasons the Marlins and Major League Baseball have repeatedly pushed for new stadium sites east of Interstate 95 in downtown Miami. But politics and economics have crippled most of the downtown sites proposed in recent years.

County Commissioner and former Miami City Manager Carlos Gimenez says local leaders realize the OB site isn’t perfect: “I think it’s viable. Viable, not ideal. There are some serious access issues. But it could work.”

Pro baseball is a vastly different beast than college football.

The Canes played, at most, seven home games each fall, almost always on Saturdays. The Marlins play 81 home dates a year, about 70 percent of them on weekday evenings. This means fans would be fighting early evening, rush-hour traffic to get to Little Havana for a 7:05 p.m. start for 56 or so games a year.

Ever try driving west on the Dolphin Expressway (State Road 836) on a weekday afternoon after 4:30 p.m.?

Assuming that the plan would include enough on-site parking to accommodate the luxury suite patrons and perhaps another 10,000 or so fans — and that’s a big assumption — what happens if the team actually starts to draw bigger crowds?

The alleged ”charm” of haggling with Little Havana locals to park on their front lawns — a rite of passage for UM fans every fall — isn’t going to wear well over a long hot summer of baseball.

The bowl’s locale, a few blocks south of the Miami River, magnifies the access headaches.

In theory, five drawbridges carry vehicles over the river.

In reality, one (Northwest Seventh Avenue/Fifth Street) is completely gone and won’t be rebuilt until 2011; another (NW 17th Avenue) is so unsafe that the county was forced to close it earlier this month with little notice, and a third (NW 12th Avenue) is being rebuilt and won’t reopen until February 2009.

And all of the bridges still must open, on demand, for marine vessels.

Mass-transit options are pretty slim.

What happens to all of the Broward and Palm Beach countybaseball fans who drive Florida’s Turnpike to Dolphin Stadium?

Tri-Rail isn’t much of an option. It’s a pain to get from the Miami Airport Station to the Orange Bowl today. Even if Miami-Dade Transit created a straight-shot, game-day shuttle from the Tri-Rail station to the OB, how many baseball fans to the north would use it?

Metrorail will only appeal to hard-core urban dwellers. It’s a little over a mile — too far to walk for most pampered, crime-fearing locals — from the closest Metrorail stations on the north side of the river to the Orange Bowl.

Barring some unlikely seismic political changes at County Hall, no one will be trying to shift billions of transit dollars to expand Metrorail near the OB in the near future.

What about a streetcar that could shuttle fans from downtown transit hubs?

Right now, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz can’t muster a three-vote majority of commissioners to support a streetcar in downtown, Wynwood, the Design District and Allapattah — all on the opposite side of the river from the stadium.

A ballpark in downtown would be closer to I-95, Metrorail, Metromover, and a proposed light-rail system on the Florida East Coast corridor that one day could shuttle fans from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

The economics and politics might be tougher, but an accessible, pedestrian-friendly downtown stadium makes the most sense. Larry Lebowitz, The Miami Herald