Built originally for powerboat racing, the Miami Marine Stadium grew to be known for iconic artists who performed there. Now, it is covered in graffiti and goes unused. NBC 6's Ari Odzer spoke with original architect Hilario Candela and Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium Founder Don Worth about the campaign to restore the stadium.
Depending on who you talk to, the Miami Marine Stadium, shut down by the city in 1992, is either a graffiti-stained relic on the bay that should be demolished, or it's a masterpiece of modern architecture with huge potential for a bright future.
"Look at it, it looks like sailboats, sails, like wind, like shells, like concrete origami. It's really a structural tour de force," said University of Miami architecture professor Jorge Hernandez.
He's part of a non-profit group called Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium, working to preserve and restore the stadium to its former glory.
Built originally for powerboat racing, the stadium has the longest span of cantilevered concrete in the world, ground-breaking when it was built for $900,000 in 1962.
Richard Nixon campaigned there with Sammy Davis, Jr. Music luminaries from Elvis Presley and Jimmy Buffet to The Who and Ray Charles played there. With every inch of space seemingly covered with graffiti, it's hard to picture the building's glory days.
"The past is great, it's what gives it soul, but it's the future that excites us," said Don Worth, founder of Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium.
With help from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Worth's group wants to clean-up, fix-up, and jazz-up the old building to modern standards so it can be used again.
"We're not interested in restoring a monument, we want this to be the center of a really vibrant, publicly-oriented waterfront space and we know from talking to promoters and event organizers for the last five years that this place has a sensational future," Worth said.
Its future may be brighter than ever now that Miami icon Gloria Estefan has joined the cause to save the concrete icon on Virginia Key.
"She's very excited about the structure and she has given us such an incredible lift by her endorsement," Hernandez said.
Original architect Hilario Candela is also glad to have Gloria on the team, hoping he'll soon see his vision of the stadium restored.
"This was really about creating a piece of sculpture, which is what this is," Candela said, sitting in the dilapidated stadium as a cool breeze blew in from the bay. "Who could not be inspired by this beauty here, and the ripples of the wind over Biscayne Bay?"
Candela needs city commissioners to be inspired to approve the restoration idea. Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium say they don't want any more public money. They did receive a $3 million grant from the county's preservation fund, but say they can raise the 30-million dollars they need to renovate the building privately.
If it happens, we may once again hear the roar of boat engines and electric guitars at the stadium, instead of the hiss of spray paint cans.