The Miami Marine Stadium was built in 1963 in Virginia Key, just south of South Beach and minutes away from Downtown Miami. It was the first venue built for boat racing in United Estates. It was also used later for concerts, boxing events and other big event since it offered more than 6000 seats. The place was dedicated to Ralph Munroe, a famous American yacht designer in Florida and also one of Coconut Grove’s founders. The complete name of the stadium is Commodore Ralph Middleton Munroe Miami Marine Stadium.
Miami Marine Stadium: First purpose-built venue for powerboat racing in the United States
Unfortunately the stadium was closed after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. A study conducted by the City of Miami concluded that the building had suffered severe damages and was no longer safe. After that many restoration plans where developed to revitalize it but none of them where executed and the Stadium was left abandoned. Since it was an open-air seating it was quite hard to avoid trespassing. It didn’t take long for vandals to deteriorate the wooden seats and graffiti artists to cover the cement walls.
But let’s not compare vandals to graffiti artists! Actually the artists did their part in conserving the building. Even the architect of the stadium, Hilario Candela, today in his eighties, once said “they have brought new life into the building”. Some renowned international graffiti artists have being in the Marine Stadium.
And if you think that for more than 20 years graffiti artists worked in the stadium… then it is kind of hard to try not to include them on the restoration plans. They are part of its history don’t matter what people say. I invite you to watch this video about graffiti art in the Marine Stadium.
Miami Marina Stadium was designed by Cuban architect Hilario Candela. An interesting fact is that at the time Hilario was just 28 years old and recently immigrated from Cuba. The place is truly an art considering its modernist and futurist lines. Poured only in concrete its design is quite bold. The waveform roof is impressive. It consists of a 326 feet in length cantilevered folded plate roof (the longest cantilevered concrete span in the world at the time).
Revitalizations of Miami Marine Stadium
Several plans where made to try Miami Marine Stadium restoration but all of them failed. A group called Friends of Miami Marine Stadium (FMMS) was created in 2008 with the purpose of restoring the Marine Stadium.
In 2009 the stadium was recognized as an architectural masterpiece by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Also in that same year was listed on Worlds Monuments Fund to its 2010 Watch List together with other significant endangered sites such as Macchu Picchu and La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
In 2013 the City of Miami granted control of the building to FMMS group. Thanks to the group’s effort the Miami Boat Show started taking place on the stadium mediation, in an attempt to drive attention to this historic icon in Miami. Local and national preservationists have launched a petition and are collecting signatures online to make the revitalization a priority for the City of Miami.
About Commodore Ralph Munroe
Ralph Middleton Munroe was one of the Coconut Grove’s pioneers. He first visited Florida in 1877 and about 10 years later decided to sattle on the Bay. His house is the oldest in Miami-Dade County and still preserved with it’s original characteristics. He was a renowned Yacht designer. In 1887 he was elected a Commodore at Biscayne Bay Yacht Club in 1887. His house and land today is a park and open to the public as The Barnacle Historic State Park. Walking through the park makes us imagine Miami’s original landscape back in the early days of Coconut Grove.
Miami Marine Stadium – Location
The stadium is located on Virginia key, right next to Virginia Key Beach Park and Key Biscayne Island. The access is through the Rickenbacker Causeway.
More pictures of Miami Marine Stadium