World Cup Reinforces Hard Rock Stadium Vision as ‘Global Entertainment Destination’ |

MIAMI. Some of the twists and turns of the Miami International Speedway were still easy to make out from the suite level at Hard Rock Stadium on Friday as South Florida local government officials, the Miami Dolphins and visitors’ bureaus gathered there to officially welcome the 2026 FIFA World Cup to Miami County. -Dade.

It hasn’t even been a month since Miami Gardens hosted the first Miami Grand Prix, turning the area around Hard Rock into a Formula One-worthy race track. It has only been two years since the institution hosted the Miami Open in 2022, transforming the same campus into a world-class tennis facility with 30 courts scattered throughout the site. In a few more months, the stadium will be completely transformed again and will be ready to host at least 10 Dolphins games and seven Miami Hurricanes games.

Even before FIFA announced Thursday that they would be hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup games in Miami-Dade County, there was no place like Hard Rock Stadium. Now it’s even more obvious.

“We had a vision to be a global entertainment destination,” said Tom Garfinkel, CEO of Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. “With the national championship games, the Super Bowl, tennis in Miami, of course Formula 1, obviously the dolphin games, and now we’re hosting the world championship here in 2026, I think that vision is coming true.”

The facility has already hosted six Super Bowls, five national college football championships, 25 Orange Bowls, three Miami Opens, World Baseball Classic games, one WrestleMania and a Formula One race. The World Cup was one of the few iconic events not mentioned in its summary.

The United States only hosted the FIFA World Cup once in 1994 and no games were played at what was then called Joe Robbie Stadium because the Miami Marlins, then called the Florida Marlins, had home dates at the stadium conflicting each other. with the tournament.

“This is a potential opportunity for generations,” Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez said.

Now the house of dolphins is impregnable. It started back in the 1980s, when Robbie conceived the idea of ​​a stadium that could easily accommodate football matches, and found new life under the leadership of Steven M. Ross and Garfinkel’s vision.

In 2017, the two lured a repeat of El Clasico – the legendary rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid from the Spanish La Liga – to Hard Rock Stadium. In 2019, they proved that Hard Rock can do more than just host stadium events when the Miami Open first moved from Key Biscayne to Miami Gardens, playing pop-up courts in what is usually an afterthought.

Their biggest achievement – at least for now – was the Miami Grand Prix, which made those parking lots and muddy fields unrecognisable, replacing them with a race track and a weekend party.

In some ways, the 2022 Miami Grand Prix was the perfect test. Last month, Garfinkel said he was visited by FIFA representatives to look at the campus – essentially a slice of Miami Beach relocated to Miami Gardens – and they could reuse some of the same ideas at the 2026 World Cup.

“It will be similar to what you see at the Super Bowl and at an F1 event where there will be a lot of hospitality in and around the venue – some permanent, some temporary,” Garfinkel said. “Here on campus, there will be a lot more activity than just matches.”

Like the Miami Grand Prix, the World Championship should attract an international audience.

This was another easy argument in favor of FIFA. Dade County is one of the most diverse in the country and is officially the Gateway to America, according to Airports Council International, and Miami International Airport was the busiest US gateway for international travelers in 2021.

“In talking to FIFA,” Garfinkel said, “you talk about the appeal of Miami as a global destination.”

Is there another, bigger boundary left for Hard Rock Stadium at the moment? At the moment, events are held here in almost all major sports, except for basketball, hockey and golf.

“That’s a good idea,” Garfinkel said, chuckling at the idea of ​​turning the place into a golf course. “Maybe somewhere else. Not here.”

In fact, the World Cup is the last thing you need to visit Hard Rock Stadium.

“We’re running out of dates and running out of space,” Garfinkel said, “so I don’t think we can do anything else, but we’ll continue. Obviously hosting the World Cup is a huge thing.”

© 2022 Miami Herald. Visit miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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