Sun Life Stadium Renovations Underway

Renovations are currently underway at Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins

  • by Lisa White
  • Published: February 17, 2015

Dolphins31.pngRenovations to Sun Life Stadium in Miami are scheduled to end before the start of the Dolphins' 2016 season.

Phase I of the renovations at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium are currently underway and on schedule to be completed before the 2015 NFL season begins.

After a hiatus during the football season, the second and final phase will begin during the off season and end by the start of the 2016 season.

“We’re now competing against state-of-the-art TVs, so our goal with this project is to greatly improve the fan experience,” said Tom Garfinkel, the Miami Dolphins’ CEO.

The $400-million renovation is being funded solely by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

Back-of-the-house construction work on the 29-year-old venue began in late June and has continued, but it wasn’t until early January that seats were removed from the upper section.

At a recent press event, the Dolphins provided insight on the construction progress and also presented computer images depicting the completed renovations.

In the project’s first phase, all seats will be changed out and the concourses on the 100 and 300 levels will be rebuilt. The second phase will include a canopy that will shade more than 90 percent of the fans, the installation of four high definition video boards and upgrades at the 200 level concourse.

The most noticeable change is the capacity at Sun Life Stadium, which will be reduced from 76,018 to approximately 65,326 seats in 2015. About 17,000 seats will be priced under $50.

“Our goal with the new design was to eliminate the bad seats and create a football-specific venue,” said Jeff Sittner, the project’s senior design director and senior associate at HOK, the St. Louis-based architect working on the project. “Fans will be closer to the field, with the first row almost 30 feet closer than it was previously.”

Although the overall capacity of the stadium will be reduced, the number of concessions stands and restrooms will increase.

With the new seating reconfiguration, all season-ticket members will select new seats during the off season.

“After careful consideration, we thought the most fair way was to let members pick their seats based on their tenure,” said Jeremy Walls, senior vice president, chief marketing officer for the Miami Dolphins.

“We tried to find a healthy balance with our seat pricing and create new luxury as well as more affordable seating, which we didn’t have before,” said Walls.

To better handle the seating reassignments, the Dolphins organization increased its service team from five to 20 staff members. Current members can pick seats by phone, on line or at the stadium’s box office. At press time, 3,500 deposits for new memberships had been received.

“This is allowing us to reset the bowl seating based on ticket member tenure,” said Garfinkel. “These fans can now sit with their friends for the first time [due to the seat reassignment].”

With the new configuration, 70 percent of seat prices will be flat or reduced, 30 percent are going up and 13 percent of these will increase more than $5 to balance the revenue.

New premium seating includes nine open-air suites at the top of the 100-level concourse, with club seats situated behind these areas.

In addition, 32 premium Living Room Suites accommodating four people each will be added and are priced at $75,000 for the season.

“We brought the prices of our traditional suites down, while creating a new luxury category for the Living Room Suites,” Garfinkel said. “This is some of the best bowl real estate in the industry, with living room-style chairs, private television sets, in-seat food and beverage service and a car service.”

As for the actual seats that have been removed for the past two weeks, Garfinkel said approximately 3,000 were salvageable and will be auctioned off, both among season-ticket members and the general public.

In addition, season-ticket members who renew this year will receive the seat backs that were salvageable.

“The renovation itself touches on almost every aspect of the building, but many new components, like the infrastructure and mechanicals, won’t be as noticeable by the public,” Sittner said.

Gathering spots will be created below the new video boards, which will provide views from the concourse directly into the bowl.

“This maximizes tailgating, which is a strong component of the new design,” Sittner said. 

In terms of aesthetics, the use of color and clean lines creates the look and feel of South Florida.

The venue’s modernization not only is more football-centric with louder acoustics, but is also designed to attract more high-profile events.

“We’d like this to be a global destination for college football championships, international soccer events, concerts, festivals and future Super Bowl games,” Walls said.

Interviewed for this article: Jeff Sittner, (816) 472-3210; Tom Garfinkel, (305) 943-8000; Jeremy Walls, (305) 943-8000

  • by Lisa White
  • Published: February 17, 2015