Miami is ready for Super Bowl spotlight again

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Hard Rock Stadium, the venue for Super Bowl LIV, got a new protective canopy in 2016 as part of a $350 million upgrade
Hard Rock Stadium, the venue for Super Bowl LIV, got a new protective canopy in 2016 as part of a $350 million upgrade Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

Super Bowl XLI was a disaster, and not only for the Chicago Bears, who lost to the Indianapolis Colts 29-17.

The Feb. 4, 2007, debacle is known as the Purple Rain game, both because the pop singer Prince was the halftime entertainment and because driving torrents and gusting winds buffeted Miami for much of the evening.

Nearly an inch of rain fell on roofless Dolphin Stadium, driving many soggy fans who had paid top dollar for their game tickets to the shelter of cement concourses. By one estimate, 30% of the lower-level seating was empty in the second half.

After Miami's 2010 Super Bowl, which had already been awarded by the time of the 2007 game, the NFL threatened to take the stadium out of consideration for future Super Bowls unless work was done to make the structure less vulnerable.

South Florida tourism promoters were ready to swan dive from the upper deck.

Enter Stephen M. Ross, the New York developer of Hudson Yards, who bought the stadium and the Miami Dolphins franchise from H. Wayne Huizenga in 2009. Ross hung a new four-sided canopy over the upper deck in 2016 and made $350 million of upgrades, footing much of the bill without local government help.

More recently, Ross and the state transportation department spent $15 million on pedestrian tunnels and bridges to make movement from the 27,000-space parking lot surrounding the stadium easier and safer.  Super Bowl patrons will also be among the first to try out an 1,800-foot-long aerial tram that will move people above the parking lot and provide views of the stadium and the new pro tennis facility that opened last year.

The improvements make Hard Rock Stadium, as it is now branded, seem entirely different and better than Dolphin Stadium, and it also makes it ready for its return to the world stage when it hosts Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2.

South Florida can expect an economic impact upwards of $500 million from hosting the game, according to the local host committee. A survey of hotel rates done by the Miami Herald in early January found that rates on the Feb. 1 and 2 Super Bowl weekend averaged 1.5-time higher than the price of the following weekend. Room at the storied Fountainebleau Miami Beach Resort were going for $2,549 a night with a four-night minimum, the Herald found.

Numbers like that make the game worth almost any price to tourism promoters, but the real upside to Florida is hard to put a figure to. Hundreds of CEOs, incentive promotion executives, high rollers and media types will be in town to eyeball it for the first time in perhaps 10 years. Miami has changed a lot since 2010.

And close to 100 million people could be watching on television, seeing the tropical background that they might decide to visit.  Last year's game in Atlanta was watched by 98.2 million people, according to Nielsen. Not coincidentally, Atlanta's new $1.6 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium is one of five in the NFL with a retractable roof.

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