While the Miami Dolphins players were playing their home opener against the Cleveland Browns, the franchise was opening the stadium to a whole new set of fans that had a passion for art and an appetite for organic food, as they showed off their latest fan experience enhancement project for the first time.
The reveal was officially made this past Thursday, as the media attended an official press conference announcing the project and was also treated to a tour of the stadium showcasing all of the 18 art pieces made by artists representing ten different countries.
“The Hard Rock Stadium project is thrilling because of the uniqueness of its architectural form and becomes the perfect backdrop for this most ambitious project." said Goldman Global Arts (GGA) Co-Founder Jessica Goldman Srebnick. "The artistic story we are telling with the Dolphins at their stadium is a truly international one that reflects the energy of the Miami community and signifies the commitment of Stephen Ross and the Dolphins organization in creating a world class global venue.”
The artists who painted the murals hailed from Germany, Argentina, Australia, Spain, Chile, Portugal, Brazil, France, the United Kingdom and of course the United States of America, each of them specializing in their own particular style of art which was reflected in the work they did.
"A lot of my work is inspired by designs in nature, colors in nature." said Jen Stark, a United States street artist. "Usually when things have bright colors it's either an attractant or a repellent, like a bright berry that's either a delicious bite or a mushroom that has this crazy bright color that you want to stay away from. I think the colors and the vibrancy of Miami, like growing up here, I think that's seeped into my artwork."
While the majority of the artwork was meant to be non-sports related, the organization felt that at least one piece of art should be based on the embodiment of the Miami Dolphins spirit. And so, Portuguese street artist Alexandre Manuel Dias (otherwise known as Vhils) created a concrete likeness of Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, with his son Dave there at the unveiling in place of his father who was on vacation.
“Our family can’t thank Mr. Ross and Tom Garfinkel and everybody that’s a part of Hard Rock Stadium and the Miami Dolphins for including him, memorializing him in concrete, in the ’72 club, in the house that – Hard Rock Stadium that it’s called now, that he loves so much.”
But there was more than just art to show off, the Dolphins also held a food tasting that Thursday afternoon, showing some of the new food options that will be available to fans during home games this season, including the addition of South Florida staple and Dolphins family restaurant Shula Burger.
It joins an already impressive cast of vendors including concessionaire partner Centerplate as well as Bokampers MVP Club, Bru’s Room Sports Grill, Café Versailles, Cold Stone Creamery, Johnsonville, Michelle Bernstein’s Crumb on Parchment, Papa John’s, Sabra, Sloppy Joe’s and Sushi Maki.
In addition, Hard Rock Stadium will continue to offer two taps rooms boasting 16 South Florida craft beers along with 36 options that include five gluten free options and favorites like Blue Point IPA, Goose Island and Stella.
But besides the addition of Shula Burger, the Miami Dolphins made history as they became the first U.S. sports team to add a vendor with a completely organic menu called Grown, founded by none other than Shannon Allen, wife of former NBA sharpshooter Ray Allen.
“This is a dream come true for me,” Shannon said. “I’ve been cheering Ray (Allen) on, supporting him and going to sports arenas for over 20 years, basically noshing on chicken fingers and fries with my five kids in tow … when you’re eating them four or five times a week, it can become a real problem.”
The problem in question presented itself approximately eight years ago when one of the Allen's sons - Walker - was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was just 17 months old. It was a scary prospect for them as they rushed Walker to the hospital one night, and that was where they found out about his diabetes.
And so began the long battle to bring Grown into existence.
“It took me eight years to get it open because everyone that I talked to said, ‘You’re insane.'” Shannon said. “‘Someone a lot smarter than you, with access to a lot more money than you have, with way better logistics and experience and a network would’ve figured this out a long time ago if it was possible. It’s impossible.’
“And I just couldn’t believe that, because I know how desperately I needed it in my own life as a mom with five kids, one with a serious medical condition, and before you know it, we were opening our doors and we had lines around the corner.”
The discussions to bring Grown to Hard Rock Stadium went well, and the food there will have those with healthier lifestyles raving with excitement. CEO Tom Garfinkel was bombarded with requests to bring a vendor like Grown into the Dolphins family, and now that wish has finally been granted.
“I live close to it (Grown) down in Coral Gables,” Garfinkel said. “And my wife got to know Shannon a little bit, and the community of people down there just love the food, and we’d gotten a lot of requests from fans about healthy food options in the stadium. So we had a conversation, talked about bringing them and they were excited about it.”
The Dolphins have always been dedicated to doing everything they can to enhance the fan experience, but even Garfinkel was willing to admit that perhaps the best way to enhance the fan experience is to put a winning football team on the field. Given everything that the organization has done to make the stadium experience great, all that's left is to do just that.
Adam Gase and the team snuck away with a win in overtime in their home opener, but they still have a long way to go before they earn the trust of the fan base. That is Gase's next - and perhaps only - project as of now.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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