Posted September 2, 2016
Tom D'Angelo - Palm Beach Post
MIAMI GARDENS — Mary Lopez had a difficult decision to make Thursday.
The office coordinator for the athletic training program at FIU, Lopez could have attended her school’s season opener against Indiana. Instead, she decided to take in the unveiling of the new-look Hard Rock Stadium.
“I came here because I love the Dolphins,” she said before Miami’s preseason finale against Tennessee. “And I’m actually going to come to more games based on the roof.”
That roof – or canopy – was the biggest attraction on a night in which Miami’s Adam Gase, like every other NFL coach, protected many of his starters by resting them for the most meaningless game of the exhibition season. That old saying, you could not tell the players without a program, is never more true than during the final game of the NFL preseason.
Words like “beautiful,” “phenomenal” and “awesome,” were thrown around to describe the newly minted Hard Rock Stadium.
“The feedback’s been incredible,” said Tom Garfinkel, the Dolphins president and CEO. “It’s really fun seeing the players and the coaches get here because a lot of them haven’t seen it yet. And having played here or coached here in the past, they’re just kind of blown away, like, ‘This feels like a totally different building.’”
The stadium turns 30 years old this year but on Thursday the Dolphins debuted a $500 million makeover, complete with a canopy that will protect most fans from the elements. It also has four new HD video replay boards that total 22,400 square feet.
The game also marked the first with Hard Rock as its title sponsor.
Edwin Henriquez of Port St. Lucie has been a season ticket holder for 10 years, starting in the upper deck and working his way to seats 15 rows from the field.
Henriquez, though, made his way to the southwest corner of the upper level, under one of the video boards, to get a better look at the makeover.
“Awesome,” he said. “It looks like a new stadium.”
Henriquez then gave some of his praise to owner Stephen Ross.
“Mr. Ross did an awesome job. He did it for the fans. I am really impressed.”
The stadium has a much more intimate feel than it did as an open bowl and it is more pleasing aesthetically with four spires on the corners to help suspend the canopy 357 feet from the ground.
And even though about 10,000 seats were sacrificed, the Dolphins are hoping to enhance its home-field advantage as the partial enclosure will help trap the noise.
“The acoustics are very different, so it will be a lot louder,” Garfinkel said. “The crowd noise will stay in the bowl a lot more, which was a design, proactive intent on that one.”
The canopy will protect about 90 percent of the fans from the sun and rain, including those in the upper deck, the 200 level and a portion of the lower level.
The Dolphins say studies show the difference in temperature in the shade could be about 30 degrees at times.
Although the steel structure is complete, not all of the protective panels were in place Thursday.
“Some of the 100 level, depending on the direction of the wind, would get wet from the rain even when it’s done,” Garfinkel said.
Which is good enough for Adam Herman of Weston, a season ticket holder for 24 years whose seats are in the upper deck.
“Phenomenal,” Herman said. “It’s not going to be as hot. It’s going to be nice. The breeze will flow through. It will give a better feel for the game.”
Lopez, who attended Thursday’s game with her son Jordan, plans to attend many more.
“When you come to the 1 o’clock. … You’re going to get protection from the sun with this,” she said. “This is going to make a big difference for me wanting to buy tickets for those Sunday games.
“Now we don’t mind sitting on the top because we’re being protected.”