Hard Rock Stadium’s continuing evolution will take another turn later this month, when it welcomes the Miami Open for the first time. Renovations under Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross have resulted in a wide-range of events being staged at the facility, but the annual tennis tournament might be its most unique non-football use to date.
Over the last several years, Hard Rock Stadium has undergone more than $500 million in renovations. From seating and concession upgrades, to a new canopy that covers the vast majority of the seating bowl—arguably the renovated facility’s most distinguishing design feature—Hard Rock Stadium has been reshaped in just about every area. The result has been a much more modern look, feel, and functionality for a stadium that opened in 1987 and reflected a standard multi-purpose design in its original iteration.
As the renovations have taken place, Hard Rock Stadium has maintained an active event calendar. In addition to its football hosting duties for the Dolphins, Miami Hurricanes, and the annual Orange Bowl, Hard Rock Stadium is also used for major events such as concerts. It will now add tennis to that slate, as the Miami Open will be held at the facility for the first time beginning on March 18.
For the Miami Open, the move was prompted by a need to expand facilities. Plans to upgrade the Crandon Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, where the tournament had been held since 1987, did not move forward, prompting the Miami Open to seek a new location. That eventually led to event owner IMG entering into a 30-year agreement to use Hard Rock Stadium beginning this year.
To prepare for the event, Hard Rock Stadium has had to undergo some changes. A 13,800-seat center court was constructed on the playing surface, running between the 30-yard lines of the football field and featuring a mix of seating that includes the south end of the stadium’s bowl as well as modular structures surrounding the court. Although the full capacity of the 65,000-seat stadium will not be in use, many of the premium areas at the facility—including the 72 Club, The Nine, and luxury suites—will be up and running.
Hosting the Miami Open required changes beyond what could be accomplished in the stadium’s interior. The surrounding parking lot has undergone a conversion into a tennis center, with a combined 29 show and practice courts. Within that complex will be a nearly 5,000-seat Grandstand Stadium, plus two smaller courts with seating capacities of roughly 3,000 and 1,500 respectively. The courts within that campus are permanent, while the surrounding area was also renovated to include landscaping enhancements and new outdoor video displays. Those improvements should provide connectivity to Hard Rock Stadium, while giving the parking lot a look and feel that is closer to a traditional tennis complex.
In recent years, more NFL facilities—such as Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium, among others—have been trying to raise the bar when it comes to hosting major events. Hard Rock Stadium certainly fits into that echelon of facilities, and renovations have made it a viable option for major football games. (Super Bowl LIV will be played there next February, and the College Football National Playoff Championship will follow in 2021.)
With the Miami Open, Hard Rock Stadium has landed an event that requires careful planning, but also one that should yield a signature attraction in the non-football months for years to come. The 2019 Miami Open begins March 18, running through March 31.
Image, tweeted March 5, courtesy Miami Open.
This article first appeared in the weekly Football Stadium Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber? It’s free, and you’ll see features like this before they appear on the Web. Go here to subscribe to the Football Stadium Digest newsletter.