Dolphin Stadium will be the new home for Hurricane football, the executive committee of the University of Miami’s Board of Trustees decided Tuesday morning.
“Regrettably, due to the history and the long relationship we’ve had with the city of Miami, we do announce that in 2008, the University of Miami will begin a 25-year relationship with Dolphin Stadium,” Athletic Director Paul Dee said of a press conference Tuesday morning.
The move follows years of discussing stadium renovations with the city of Miami, the owner of the Orange Bowl, and more recently by talks between the university and Dolphin Stadium owner, H. Wayne Huizinga.
After a long courtship, including a tour of the stadium by 29 student leaders, the move seemed to be a “done deal” by many in the spring.
Earlier this month, however, it appeared that the city and the university were moving closer together on a deal. Now the university has committed to the move north.
“I did not want to do it,” UM President Donna E. Shalala said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, after the executive committee meeting concluded. “We made extraordinary efforts to see whether it was possible to stay. There is nothing on the list that we didn’t try. It’s a painful and sad decision.”
Financial considerations are thought to be the major factor leading to the move, as it is estimated the university could receive $1.5 million in additional revenue from concessions, parking and luxury seating.
Attempting to alleviate concerns, the university announced there would be a search for a corporate sponsor to give the venue a neutral name by 2010. In addition to the move, students will also be affected by changes in seating and rules.
Students will sit in both lower and upper sections of the west end zone of Dolphin stadium, whereas they currently sit in the lower east end of the Orange Bowl. Students will not be permitted to stand in the seats at the new venue, as is currently customary in the adrenaline-filled student section.
Furthermore, alcohol will be prohibited in the student section regardless of age, according to the stadium announcement press release on Hurricanesports.com.
The university has received criticism from some fans and students, arguing that the move will create problems getting to and from games. Dolphin Stadium, located at the Dade-Broward county line, is approximately 22 miles away from campus. The Orange Bowl is approximately seven.
A group of approximately 30 law students, medical students, graduate students, student athletes and undergraduates attended April’s open house.
The Student Government president and Senate speaker later issued a letter to Shalala supporting the decision to move to Dolphin Stadium. However, the letter specifically addresses the alcohol policy in the student section, stating that “students feel that the policy in place at the Orange Bowl should be continued at Dolphin Stadium.”
“At first, I was against a move and the majority of students will be against a move,” said Danny Carvajal, SG president. “When students see Dolphin Stadium, they’ll realize the gameday experience is so much better.”
Despite assurances and SG’s general support, many students continue to disagree with the decision. A UM-only Facebook group opposed to the move counted almost 600 members at time of press.
Similarly, an online petition called “Keep the Orange Bowl” counted 4,272 signatures.
Randy Shannon, thrown into this controversy before his first game Saturday as head football coach, looked back at the past, but also ahead.
“Hopefully this year we can go out with a blast,” Shannon said.
“We want the fans to come out and make the last year the best one, and then start a tradition there like we had at the Orange Bowl.”
The Hurricanes began playing in the Orange Bowl, then called Burdine Stadium, in 1937. The NFL’s Miami Dolphins left in 1986 for Dolphin Stadium, formerly Joe Robbie Stadium, with the Orange Bowl game following in 1995.
Left without a tenant, the stadium will likely be demolished. The site in Little Havana has been mentioned as a possible future home of the Florida Marlins.
Shalala relayed the mixed emotions many fans have expressed throughout the whole ordeal, highlighting the battle between common sense and emotion.
“Is it appropriate for the University of Miami, a private university, to ask the people, the taxpayers of the city, to spend $200 million on six games a year?” she said.
“I tried desperately to find another tenant; I’m sorry, we couldn’t hold on to it.”
Alex Kushel and Stacey Arnold contributed to this report.
Matthew Bunch may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.