World Cup reaffirms vision of Hard Rock Stadium as ‘global entertainment destination’ |

MIAMI – Some of the curves and turns of the Miami International Speedway were still easy to spot from the level of apartments at Hard Rock Stadium on Friday when representatives from South Florida local authorities, Miami Dolphins and the visitors’ bureau gathered there to officially welcome the 2026 World Cup in Miami-Dade County.

It’s only been a month since the Miami Gardens hosted the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, turning Hard Rock venues into a Formula One racetrack. It’s only been two months since the facility hosted the Miami Open in 2022, turning the same campus into world-class tennis complex with 30 courts scattered throughout the place. In a few more months, the stadium will be completely transformed again, ready to host at least 10 games of the Dolphins and seven games of the Miami Hurricanes.

Even before FIFA announced it would move 2026 World Cup matches to Miami-Dade County on Thursday, there was no place like Hard Rock Stadium. It is even more obvious now.

“We had a vision to have a global entertainment destination here,” said Tom Garfinkel, CEO of Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. “With matches from national championships, the Super Bowl, the Miami Open tennis, certainly Formula One, obviously the Dolphin Games and now we are hosting the World Cup here in 2026, I think that vision is coming true.

The facility now hosts six Super Bowls, five national college football championships, 25 Orange Bowls, three Miami Opens, World Baseball Classic games, one WrestleMania and a Formula One race. The World Cup was one of the few events missing from the resume. mu.

The United States hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup only once again, and the stadium – then called Joe Robbie Stadium – did not host any matches, as the Miami Marlins, then called the Florida Marlins, had conflicting host matches. the stadium with the tournament.

“This is a potential opportunity for a generation,” said Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez.

Now the home of dolphins is inaccessible. It began in the 1980s, when Robbie formulated the idea of ​​a stadium that could easily be adapted to host football matches, and took on a new life under the ownership of Stephen M. Ross and Garfinkel’s vision.

In 2017, the two lured a repeat of El Clásico – the legendary rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Spanish La Liga – at Hard Rock Stadium. In 2019, they proved that Hard Rock could do more than just host events at the stadium when the Miami Open moved from Key Biscayne to Miami Gardens for the first time, playing on pop-up courts in what is usually a crowded space.

Their crowning achievement – at least for now – was the Miami Grand Prix, which made these parking lots and muddy fields unrecognizable, replaced by a racetrack and a weekend party.

In a way, the Miami 2022 Grand Prix (GP) was the perfect test case. Garfinkel said last month that he had made FIFA officials come to see the campus – essentially a piece of Miami Beach transported to Miami Gardens – and they would be able to reuse some of the same ideas at the 2026 World Cup.

“It will be similar to what you see for the Super Bowl and the F1 event, where there will be a lot of hospitality in and around the place – some permanent, some temporary,” Garfinkel said. “There will be a lot more activity here on campus than just the matches themselves.

Like the Miami GP, the World Cup should attract an international audience.

This was another easy point to sell FIFA. Dade County is one of the most diverse in the country, officially called the “Gateway to America”, and Miami International Airport was the busiest portal for the United States for international travelers in 2021, according to the International Airport Council.

“In a conversation with FIFA,” said Garfinkel, “you are talking about the attractiveness of Miami as a global destination.”

Is there another, bigger limit for Hard Rock Stadium at the moment? At the moment, he is hosting an event in almost every major sport, except basketball, hockey and golf.

“It’s a good idea,” Garfinkel said, laughing at the idea of ​​turning the place into a golf course. “Maybe somewhere else. Not here.”

Realistically, the World Cup is the last thing Hard Rock Stadium had to mark.

“Our dates are running out and our space is running out,” Garfinkel said, “so I don’t know we can do much more, but we will continue. Having a World Cup is obviously a huge thing. “

© 2022 Miami Herald. Visit miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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