Hard Rock Stadium renovations finished in time for game Thursday

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It’s hard to imagine the Miami Dolphins playing in anything but a burnt-orange monstrosity.

Photo credit: Gunther Hagleitner

After a media tour of the newly named and renovated Hard Rock Stadium on Monday, it appears the days of a minimal stadium experience are over.

Miami faced an ultimatum from the NFL: upgrade the stadium or be removed from Super Bowl hosting consideration. That ultimatum was met with a mega facelift and a goliath naming rights deal.

Hard Rock International, a renowned brand with rock n’ roll swagger, locked in an 18-year, roughly $250 million naming deal with the Dolphins in one of the largest stadium deals across the NFL. Both the Miami Hurricanes and Dolphins will share the stadium, which will host the annual Orange Bowl game and the 2020 Super Bowl.

The most recent stadium renovation process, a roughly $500 million effort, didn’t kick off until February of this year. The temporary certificate of occupancy was received Monday, just days before the team’s first game in the stadium – the final preseason game.

This renovation is a far cry from the good-but-not-great fan experience of the past. Miami Dolphins President and CEO Tom Garfinkel said the stadium has been competing with 60-inch screens (people who watch games at home) and hopes to draw more fans to the stadium with its latest upgrades.

Fans no longer have to bake in the sun during afternoon games. The shade canopy will provide coverage to more than 90 percent of fans. It’s a much-needed improvement from the sub-20 percent shading pre-renovation.

Instead of being in direct sunlight and leaving the stadium covered in sunburn and copious amounts of sweat, fans will experience a temperature relief of about 30 degrees in the shade.

Strategically, most of the away sideline on the field isn’t shaded, while the home sideline is. Why does that matter? Three or more hours playing an intense contact sport can take its toll on players. The South Florida sun and thick humidity amplify it, and most teams aren’t used to playing in those conditions.

The canopy also makes the stadium more visually captivating. The four spires that help with structural integrity stand 357 feet from the ground.

Fans in attendance will enjoy upgraded video boards, too. There are four 1,472-inch screens totalling 22,400 square feet, which is a drastic improvement over the old boards, which totaled about 12,000 square feet. The new boards boast a modest 18 million LEDs… OK, not so modest.

Also announced Monday was a partnership with Uber, an innovative ride sharing company that has exploded in popularity in the last few years. The stadium will feature a safe, designated pick up and drop off area. TheUberTailgate was also created giving those who Uber an opportunity to tailgate. The designated area will include grills, ice, furniture and other tailgate items. There will also be a general store for any items fans didn’t bring or need more of, such as beer, water and meat. Included in the price is round-trip transportation to and from the game.

Though not in the most flourishing or accessible location, the stadium renovation is big news for the future of Miami Gardens and the South Florida community.