There is no greater feeling in the world for a man than to hold his newborn child in his arms for the first time and come to the realization that he is now a father. Although the newly-renovated Hard Rock Stadium is a little too big to be cradled in such a way, the Miami Dolphins organization is also feeling that same pride after finally completing their two and a half year long project.
"We had an eight month gestation period for this one," said Senior Vice President of Stadium Renovations Bill Senn with a laugh. "It feels great, it's come together very well. Contractors have worked with us, our housekeeping staff and all of our facility staff, they've put up with contractors crawling all over the place for the last eight months, we've finally given the building back to them so they can get it all cleaned up and they've done a phenomenal job getting it ready for football."
Tonight at 7, the Dolphins will officially debut Hard Rock Stadium to the fan base during the final preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, and while the game itself means nothing in the long run, this will be a huge step forward for the organization and its fans as they get to sample exactly what they have to look forward to enjoying in the future.
But it isn't just the fans who are excited about the team's new home, even the players who are going to be playing in can't wait for the opportunity to break in the brand new field and show what they can do in a whole new atmosphere. They were going to get the chance this past Monday, but lightning in the area shut down their practice.
“I haven’t seen it. You guys are going to see it before I see it so I’m excited to see it. We were going to see it today; we were going to practice down there, but (with) the rain, we had to move it back here." quarterback Ryan Tannehill said on Monday. "I’m excited to see it. I’m excited to play in it. From what I’ve seen and the guys that I’ve talked to that have been there said it’s really cool and should be a great venue.”
The stadium renovations started last year in what Miami called phase one, which included gutting the lower bowl of the stadium and rebuilding it brand new. But the big part of this project was during phase two, during which the canopy and four large HD jumbotrons were placed in each corner of the stadium.
Owner Stephen Ross spent over $500 million dollars to make this almost-new stadium a reality, and it was these renovations that were largely responsible for the Dolphins getting the opportunity to host the Super Bowl in 2020, which will be the first time they've done so since 2010, when the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts.
Of course, Ross stated that he wants to do more than just host a Super Bowl, he wants his team to be playing in one.
“I want a Super Bowl winner,” Ross said. “That’s my legacy. That’s what I would love.”
That's now up to head coach Adam Gase and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum to figure out, but they won't be alone in this endeavor, the stadium itself is going to be doing its part - however small - to give the team a competitive edge whenever Miami comes home to play inside it.
The way the canopy is built, the visiting team side will be exposed to the hot Florida sun on game day, while the home team will be sitting in the shade. Temperature measurements taken by the Dolphins showed that the difference between the two sides is up to 30 degrees, which makes a bigger difference than one might think.
Miami has also gone out of their way to make sure that the stadium will be louder than it's ever been when fans begin to shout and cheer, making it more reminiscent of other stadiums such as the Superdome in New Orleans.
"The video boards, the audio experience that comes out of the sound system is second to none." said Bill Senn. "It's going to be a loud football game, it's going to be great for our fans, great for the team, and it's truly - when you look at what we've done inside the bowl here, this does not look like the old stadium at all. It's totally transformed."
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was one of the players in attendance for the naming rights announcement when they officially christened the stadium as Hard Rock Stadium, and he got to have his first look at his home for the next few seasons.
“It’s a beautiful stadium. I think the fans will be very excited about the Jumbotrons – obviously there are four amazing ones in there. Hard Rock Stadium is going to be a rocking place, in my opinion." he said. "I’m excited to get out on that football field. Like you said before, I was out there with the (naming rights) announcement and it is a pristine field – beautiful. I can’t thank enough our ownership and front office for all the work and time that they put into that. I’m excited to get out there and see it when we have a true home game against the Cleveland Browns.”
There's no doubt that Dolphins fans will have a brand new experience when they enter Hard Rock Stadium for the first time tonight when Miami goes up against the Tennessee Titans, but if there is one thing that Bill Senn hopes for besides the increased fan enjoyment, it's that credit goes where it's due when it comes to the several workers who made this vision a reality.
"The unfortunate reality is when our guests walk into this building, they won't understand the amount of work that went into this building." said Bill Senn. "They will not understand the amount of work that went into installing the shade canopy in a very, very short period of time. We put up our first piece of steel on February 11th this year, and we torqued our last bolt on August 9th.
"So when you think about putting up over 17,000 tons of steel in that short a period of time, it's truly amazing and it's really a testament to the men and women of the trades who put this all together for us."
With a new home and a new partnership to add on to the fan experience, there's only one thing left for the organization to do to make everything perfect, and that's put a winning football team on the field. They'll officially take their first step towards that at home tonight, in front of a crowd that has been thirsty for change for a very long time.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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