National Historic Preservation Trust’s "2009 11 Most Endangered List" Includes Miami Marine Stadium

This year marks the 22nd annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Since 1988, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has used this list as a powerful alarm to raise awareness of the serious threats facing the nation’s greatest treasures. It has become one of the most effective tools in the fight to save the country’s irreplaceable architectural, cultural and natural heritage. In the days leading up to and during the National Preservation Trust’s Nashville Conference, Nashville Past And Present will highlight the historic buildings, structures and places on this years most endangered list.

Completed in 1963, Miami Marine Stadium, on Virginia Key, is both a South Florida landmark and an icon of modern design. Built entirely of poured concrete and featuring a dramatically cantilevered folded-plate roof, the stadium, which has been closed for 17 years, is a sentimental favorite of many Miami residents who experienced their first concerts under the stars over Biscayne Bay. With its 6,000-by-1,400-foot water basin in the shape of a Circus Maximus, the stadium, named for Coconut Grove pioneer and boating enthusiast Ralph Munroe, has all the trappings of an acquatic mid-century hippodrome. The 6,566-seat arena was designed by Hilario Candela, a Cuban-born architect, who at age 27 conceived a stadium that would, decades later, be viewed as a masterwork of civic architecture and modern construction. Seventeen years ago, after the stadium was damaged by Hurricane Andrew, an engineering study commissioned by the city indicated that the damage was modest and could be repaired for approximately $2 to $3 million. Unfortunately, the repairs were never carried out, and the stadium, a prime target for development, has suffered from years of deterioration and neglect.

Framing views of downtown Miami, the stadium’s distinctive sculptural, zigzag canopy seems to float over the water while its columns appear to levitate over Biscayne Bay. A venue for classical and rock concerts, operas, political rallies, speedboat races, regattas, wake board competitions, swimming competitions and religious services, the stadium once was the place to see and be seen. On any given night, hundreds of audience members on private boats would surround the floating barge that served as the stadium’s stage in order to catch a show

Miami Marine Stadium has taken an important step toward potential restoration. World Monuments Fund and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have joined with local supporters in Miami—The Villagers, the Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, the John and Selene Devaney Foundation, and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, whose district includes the stadium—and have raised the $50,000 necessary to commission an engineering study that will help determine the cost of its restoration. The partners expect the results of the study, due later this fall, to help guide decision making about the future of the facility. Read more.

The City of Miami, which is now developing a Master Plan for Virginia Key, remains lukewarm about preserving the stadium and questions its viability as a performing arts venue. Stadium supporters, including the Friends of Miami Marine Stadium, say that the facility’s location is as desirable as ever for its original purpose. The group intends to ensure that the stadium is preserved and a plan is created to maximize its public use.

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