Hard Rock Stadium – Miami (FL) Hurricanes
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The “U” is a football team steeped in history. As the fans say, the University of Miami “invented swagger” during their heyday. Once thought lost, those days seem to be returning.
Essentially, the “U” had some seats to fill….a lot of them. During big-time match-ups against Florida or Florida State, Miami fans pack the stadium, but were still are outnumbered 60-40 by rival fans. Hard Rock Stadium also had seemed a little big for the crowds at regular contests, however, similar to Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, or North Carolina, but that has quickly changed thanks to a renewed UM football program.
Add to that it is Miami, and the fans know how to party. You don’t get to be the #1 party school in America by hosting a boring tailgate.
Food & Beverage 4
Miami has amazing food. Because of this, there is an expectation of that being reflected in the city’s stadium concessions offerings. Hard Rock Stadium does a good job at offering Latin American favorites mixed with traditional stadium fare.
Yes, you can still get a cheeseburger or a loaded hot dog with a cold beer like any other stadium in America. And of course there is soda to be had too. But there are also arepas and Cuban sandwiches on the menu, something you won’t see at any SEC or Pac-12 school.
Additionally, there is an expanded alcohol offering, with several bars open with large quantities of adult beverages and cocktails to make your thirst float away.
If you manage a seat in the suite level, a large food court area will greet you with a multitude of eating and drinking choices. Prices at Hard Rock Stadium are manageable.
“OOOOHHHHHHH…..C-A-N-E-S CANES!” is one of the coolest college fan chants around, but it only really has an effect if EVERYONE around you is doing it. When you have a packed crowd, the roar can send chills up your spine.
The atmosphere for UM tailgates can be top notch. There is lots of school spirit to see. Fans stretched out throughout the stadium parking lot makes for an awesome game day tailgate.
When the Hurricanes play the in-state rival Gators or Seminoles, Hard Rock Stadium comes alive. The 2014 game against FSU had such emotion and energy, it was hard to imagine a more exciting game in college football that weekend. The student section was rocking. The Band of the Hour was on point with every song. The team was responding to the roar of the fans. The stadium seemed to have its swagger back, and that has continued to become more and more common with each game on the calendar.
Miami Gardens isn’t exactly a prime location in which to showcase the city of Miami and all it has to offer. Sure, across the street from Hard Rock Stadium is a very nice shopping center. Inside is a giant Walmart. There is a bank as well, with a beautiful brand new Sonic Beach that has a ton of fans before and after the game. The outside patio setting is mixed, with several TVs and the bar inside that opens up to the outdoors, making it an ideal setting in which to relax before or after the game with the family and other fans.
But the immediate neighborhood BEYOND that first block is not the same. There isn’t anything “wrong” per se with the neighborhood, but it isn’t exactly a crown jewel of Miami-Dade County. The homes are average. The people are just….there. Think something akin to the first Fast and the Furious movie – everyone in the middle of lower-middle-class suburbia cooking out on an old grill. That’s the same setting. Not a bad place, but I could think of nicer locations to be walking through in the evening.
Traffic is also a rough go considering Hard Rock Stadium is next to a highway. As far as where to stay, hotels aren’t plentiful near the venue, but the Stadium Hotel is the most popular, while the Hampton Inn & Suites Ft. Lauderdale/Miramar is also close by. Some of the hotels near the stadium are out of date, though, so it would be better to experience what Miami has to offer and stay in the city or South Beach if you’re staying overnight. Additionally, the stadium isn’t anywhere near the University of Miami campus.
For food, there is a really nice Sonic Beach across the street, as well as Denny’s. For those who want a bit of fun, Calder Casino is also across the street. A trip to the Florida Everglades is also just west of the stadium for those who like nature.
It would be easy to think not everyone in Miami is a UM fan. However, everywhere you go from the Keys to Palm Beach, you see people wearing UM gear. Without question, the support from the fans is there. It is just a matter of translating that support into getting butts into seats.
This is a quandary that used to face the team every game, but lately the issue has been solved. Sold out or close to sold out games are commonplace. During offensive plays it is quiet. However, Miami knows how to party, and so do Hurricanes fans, meaning the noise level is top notch when the defense is on the field.
A UM tailgate can be a blast to someone looking for fun times. There are even those who show up to the game to tailgate before, and then leave without even going into the game. It is all about the fun times for them, and to each their own. If you want a cold beer, some good friends, and a friendly game of football toss or dominoes in the parking lot, UM football is where you should be.
Hard Rock Stadium is right off the Florida Turnpike, but a well-placed exit ramp does not an easy drive make. This is Miami, and traffic here is awful on a perfect day at midnight. Add to that the gameday traffic and terribly spaced lights all around the stadium, and you’re liable to be stuck there for hours unless you arrive really early.
The stadium is far from the UM campus. Essentially, it’s pretty far from everything. This has been a complaint of fans in many places for all teams at Hard Rock Stadium. For a fan in a population center like Homestead or Cutler Bay to the south, a trip to a UM game can be an hour drive each direction depending on traffic; this is actually another main factor that drove the Miami Marlins to push for a new home.
Hurricanes fans will travel for bigger games, but one cannot help but imagine there would be a much fuller stadium if it were in a closer location.
Return on Investment 4
UM games were once a quagmire of unrealized potential, but have once again become one of the hottest tickets in town. If you’re going to a big-time matchup, you will get big bang for your buck. The big issue is the expense of gas to get to the middle of nowhere in Miami, meaning travel can kill your ROI.
One has to gauge what they consider to be a good return – are you going to see UM win in dominant fashion like their golden years? Lately, it seems like those days are returning once again. You get to see UM play and experience the “swagger,” and perhaps leave as a Canes convert.
Sebastian the Ibis (the UM mascot) is a cool dude. He is the life of every party. And lately, he has taken to partying it up in the student section with fire extinguishers like he was in Club Liv downtown. At the same time, he’s kid friendly and a fun addition to any game day. Sebastian is one of the coolest and best college mascots there is.
Despite the downturn in recent decades, this is still one of the most successful college football programs of the past 30 years, and the team’s history is displayed on their ring of honor inside the upper bowl, showcasing Hurricane greats from yesteryear.
The “U” needs “you” to become whole again. It will come with time and growing success, as any program experiences. But at the same time, one has to take measure of what UM has to offer. They are one of the most historically-steeped college football programs around, and have been around only half as long as some other stalwart programs. Many of the NFL’s biggest stars have come from Miami. It’s a school everyone wants to go to. Hard Rock Stadium and the Hurricanes are still a football experience everyone should have at least once, especially if it’s a marquee match-up.
In short, give the “U” a chance, and you may be able to say you saw the swagger yourself in full force as the team makes another post-season playoff push.
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