Sun Life Stadium (previously known as Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins (Joe Robbi Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, and Land Shark Stadium) is an American football, baseball, soccer, and lacrosse stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, a suburb of Miami. The stadium serves as host to the Miami Dolphins, the Florida Marlins, the Miami Hurricanes, and the annual Orange Bowl college football game.
Since its construction, the stadium has hosted five Super Bowls (XXIII, XXIX, XXXIII, XLI and XLIV), two World Series (1997 and 2003), and three BCS National Championship Games (2001, 2005, 2009). The stadium served as host for the second round of the 2009 World Baseball Classic, and hosted the 2010 Pro Bowl.
On January 18, 2010, The Miami Dolphins signed a five-year deal with Sun Life Financial to rename Dolphin Stadium to Sun Life Stadium. The deal is worth $7.5 million per year for five years (a total of $37.5 million).
History: Conception and construction
Formerly known as Joe Robbie Stadium was the first of its kind in the NFL to be constructed entirely with private funds. Joe Robbie led the financing campaign to build Joe Robbie Stadium (JRS) for the Miami Dolphins of the NFL. JRS revolutionized the economics of professional sports when it opened in 1987. Inclusion of a Club Level, along with Executive Suites, helped to finance the construction of the stadium. Season ticket holders committed to long term agreements and in return received first-class amenities in a state-of-the-art facility.
The stadium was designed at Joe Robbie's request to have a wider than normal playing field in order to accommodate soccer and to serve as the home of a potential Major League Baseball franchise in South Florida. Because of this design decision, the first row of seats is 90 feet (27 m) from the sideline in a football configuration, considerably more distant than the first row of seats in most football stadiums (the closest seats at the new Soldier Field, for instance, are 55 feet (17 m) from the sideline at the 50–yard line). While the decision to employ a wider playing field resulted in a Major League Baseball (MLB) expansion franchise for Miami (see below), it resulted in a less intimate venue for football when compared to other contemporary football facilities.
The first regular season NFL game played there was a 42–0 Dolphins victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on October 11, 1987. The game was in the middle of the 1987 NFL strike, and was played with replacement players. The stadium first hosted Monday Night Football there on December 7 of that year, in a 37–28 Dolphins victory over the New York Jets. In addition to the Super Bowl, several other playoff games have been played in Dolphin Stadium, including the 1992 AFC Championship Game, which the Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills, 29-10. Overall, the Dolphins are 5-3 in playoff games held here.
In 1990, H. Wayne Huizenga, then Chairman of the Board and CEO of Blockbuster Video and Huizenga Holdings Inc., agreed to purchase 50 percent of Joe Robbie Stadium and became the point man in the drive to bring Major League Baseball to South Florida. That effort was rewarded in July 1991, when South Florida was awarded an MLB expansion franchise. The new team was named the Florida Marlins and placed in the National League. On January 24, 1994, Huizenga acquired the remaining fifty percent of the stadium to give him 100% ownership. Since 1991, several million dollars have been spent to upgrade and renovate the stadium.
Renovations and configurations
After Huizenga bought part of the stadium, it was extensively renovated to accommodate a baseball team, as part of his successful bid to bring the Florida Marlins to South Florida. Purists initially feared the result would be similar to Exhibition Stadium in Toronto; when the Toronto Blue Jays played there from 1976 to 1989, they were burdened with seats that were so far from the field (as far as 820 feet in some locations) that they weren't even sold during the regular season. However, as mentioned above, Robbie had foreseen Miami would be a likely location for an expansion major league baseball team, and the stadium was designed to make any necessary renovations for baseball as seamless as possible.
The stadium's baseball capacity was initially reduced to 47,600, with most of the upper level covered with a tarp. Huizenga wanted to create a more intimate atmosphere for baseball, and even without this to consider, most of the seats in the upper level would have been too far from the field. The stadium's baseball capacity has been further reduced over the years, and it now seats 36,500. However, the Marlins usually open the entire upper level for the postseason. In the 1997 World Series, the Marlins had some of the highest postseason attendance figures in MLB history, only exceeded by Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the temporary home of the Los Angeles Dodgers before Dodger Stadium was opened, in the 1959 World Series.
Although it was designed from the ground up to accommodate baseball, Sun Life Stadium is not a true multipurpose stadium. Rather, it is a football stadium that can convert into a baseball stadium. Most of the seats are pointed toward center field – where the 50–yard line would be in the football configuration. As such, the sight lines are not as good for baseball. This was particularly evident during the Marlins' two World Series appearances in 1997 and 2003. Some portions of left and center field are not part of the football playing field, and fans sitting in the left field upper-deck seats were unable to see these areas except on the replay boards.
Partly as a result of the sight-line problems at Sun Life Stadium, the Marlins are booked for a new stadium at the site of the Miami Orange Bowl in 2012. Since the 2011 target date was not possible, the Marlins are now looking for a one-year lease before moving into their new stadium in 2012. The Marlins front office has already started negotiating deals with the Dolphins and Hurricanes to make a 1-year deal to stay in Dolphin Stadium.
Aside from baseball renovations, Sun Life Stadium has undergone some permanent renovations. In April 2006, the stadium unveiled the two largest hi-definition video boards in professional sports and a new fascia LED ribbon-board, the largest in the world, but these have since been surpassed in size. In addition, the upgrades include vastly widened 40,000 square-foot concourses on the stadium’s north and south sides. Bars, lounges and other amenities have also been added. The renovation has three phases, the first has been completed but the second and third phases of renovation will take place after the Marlins move out of the stadium. These remaining phases include the addition of a roof to shield fans from the rain, as well as remodeling the sidelines of the lower bowl to narrow the field and bring seats closer, ending its convertibility to baseball. Thus, while it is the tenth-oldest stadium in the NFL, it is currently up-to-date for years to come.
The stadium has played host to five Super Bowls (1989, 1995, 1999, 2007, 2010). There has been a kickoff return for a touchdown in each Super Bowl played at the stadium other than the most recent in 2010. The stadium also hosted the 2010 Pro Bowl.
Sun Life Stadium hosts the Miami Hurricanes (2008-present). The stadium was the home field for the Florida Atlantic Owls (2001-02).
Sun Life Stadium has been the site of the Orange Bowl game since 1996, except for the January 1999 contest between Florida and Syracuse, which had to be moved due to a conflict with a Dolphins playoff game.
The stadium also plays host biennially to the yearly Shula Bowl, a game played between Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University, when the game is hosted by FAU (FIU hosts the game at their own stadium, FIU Stadium, every other year).
The stadium was the venue where Ken Griffey, Jr. hit his 600th career home run off Mark Hendrickson of the Florida Marlins on June 9, 2008.
The stadium has been the site of many concerts, featuring such entertainers as Madonna, U2, Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, Flo Rida, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Billy Joel, Chicago, Genesis, Gloria Estefan, Prince, The Police, Guns N' Roses, The Who, Hall & Oates, Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, and The Three Tenors.
Other events held at Sun Life Stadium have included international soccer games, monster truck shows, Hoop-It-Up Basketball, RV and boat shows, the UniverSoul Circus, Australian rules football exhibition matches, and numerous trade shows.
In 2006, Sun Life Stadium hosted the High School State Football Championships, sanctioned by the FHSAA Florida High School Athletic Association. Movies have also been shot in Dolphin Stadium, most notably Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which stars Jim Carrey and even features Dolphins great Dan Marino as himself; Marley and Me starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer AnistonAt a scene Marley ran onto the field ; and the Oliver Stone-directed Any Given Sunday.
Also Sun Life Stadium along with the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA were among the finalists to host the world wrestling entertainmentsWWE's WrestleMania XXVII in 2011. On February, 1st, 2010 it was announced that Atlanta, GA would host WrestleMania XXVII.