For locals who grew up with a seemingly eternal constellation of landmarks, from the old funked-up band shell at Bayfront Park to the pre-gloss South Beach, nothing is more sorely missed than the Miami Marine Stadium in its heyday. Normal, run-of-the-mill American cities have ordinary stadiums; Miami, which has a knack for the extraordinary, has a stadium on the water. The Miami Marine Stadium was designed by Hilario Candela in 1963 and is situated on Virginia Key off Key Biscayne. From the beginning, it looked like a fighter jet about to take flight, a modernist gem as perfectly crystallized in its architectural balance as a hawk’s wing.
Over the years, the Marine Stadium was the site of countless Easter Sunday sunrise services as well as nighttime concerts—devoutly tropical experiences. As a kid, I’d sail over from Coconut Grove in my little boat and anchor at night around the floating stage and catch a show; to take in the swing and sass of Ray Charles, with the stadium bathed in moonlight, was to realize the romantic possibilities of Miami.
The Marine Stadium took a hit from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 (the floating stage was badly damaged) and it was left to fall into graffiti-infested decay. Thankfully, the Friends of Miami Marine Stadium stepped up, and the City of Miami’s master plan for Virginia Key now includes the stadium’s restoration. Last May, an array of organizations— from DawnTown to the Miami Chapter of The American Institute of Architects—cosponsored a design competition for a new stage. The winner was The Pearl, a shimmering globe designed by Jiong Wu + Gengxin Ou from Abingo Wu Studio. The utterly fantastic sphere would complement the hard beauty of the original stadium.
The Miami Marine Stadium was, and still is, a stunning architectural confection. Hopefully, this wonder in concrete will soon return to its former glory, a beacon that establishes the enduring power of Miami modernism.