Restore the historic marine stadium, whatever the cost

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Restore the historic marine stadium, whatever the cost
Miami Marine Stadium

Recently, the City of Miami Commission deferred the reauthorization of funding to restore the Miami Marine Stadium until May. Commissioner Joe Carollo directed city manager Art Noriega to submit a cost study of revenues and financial losses of the stadium after restoration and reopening.

Performing due diligence is always a best practice of any project and Commissioner Carollo’s request for a cost study is well taken. However, for the commissioner to refer to the Marine Stadium as too expensive to preserve as a venue for concerts and other events is not only short-sighted but shows a lack of understanding for heritage sites and their economic value.

The one-of-a-kind landmark is not just another sports venue but it is more than that — it is an economic asset. The stadium — its original name is Commodore Ralph Middleton Munroe Marine Stadium — was built on land donated to the City of Miami by the Matheson family for water sports. It is one of only a handful of open-air venues in the world and if that is not an economic potential, what is?

According to a study commissioned by the U.S Chamber of Commerce, towns that make historic preservation a priority enjoy an economic dividend to the local economy.

Additionally, heritage tourism has a greater impact on a local economy with heritage tourists spending 15 percent more than non-heritage tourists.

Yes, the Brutalist-style marine stadium, designed by the late Cuban-born Hilario Candela in 1963, designated a local landmark in 2008, and listed on the National Register of HIstoric Places in 2018, needs funding but its predicament is no different than any other sports stadium or cultural institution in the city.

Most of these spaces are subsidized by public dollars and some are built wholly with public funds. For example, the former AmericanAirlines Arena was built on public land worth $38 million (at the time) and has been funded at the cost of over $64 million. Additionally, taxpayers contributed over $100 million for a new art museum (PAMM) and $165 million for a new science museum (Frost). The children’s museum was built on an acre of public land on Watson Island. And let’s not forget the Marlins Park. Built at a cost of $630 million, public coffers covered three-fourths of the baseball stadium’s final bill. And what about the pending give-away of the historic Melreese Golf Course?

The examples mentioned join the many other cultural places that rely on annual taxpayer money to survive.

The point is that taxpayer funding of public venues and cultural spaces is the norm, not the exception. Sixty million dollars to restore the marine stadium will not break the bank but it will enrich the community and boost the local economy as a heritage site. Moreover, the Commodore Ralph Middleton Munroe Marine Stadium stands on a level all its own. Sitting on donated land for water sports, it is architecturally distinct as per its listing in Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places. And above all, it is a historic landmark with local, national and international recognition.

The City of Miami Commission must consider the stadium for what it is — a distinct heritage site with an inherent economic viability.

Respectfully submitted,

Dr. Karelia Martinez Carbonell,
Local resident and preservation advocate

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