The ground-breaking ceremony for the new home of the Miami Dolphins was a cool December day in 1985. Joe Robbie, the teams founder wanted a new stadium, because he had spent the last two decades playing at the Orange Bowl, west of downtown Miami in Little Havana. The Orange Bowl stadium was over 40 years old, and Robbie envisioned building a modern stadium that could also accommodate a pro-baseball team.
The first game played at the new Joe Robbie Stadium was on October 11, 1987, was an astounding 42-0 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. The playing field was made slightly wider than most other NFL stadiums so that the prescription athletic turf field (natural grass) could also be used for pro-soccer. As a result, there is a 90 foot separation between the playing field and the first row of seats, almost double that of other stadiums.
With a seating capacity of 75,192, the stadium was constructed for $115 million, ($221 million in 2011 dollars). It has been used as the venue for five Super Bowls (XXIII, XXIX, XXIII, XLI, and XLIV). The first one, Super Bowl XXIII, was the first to be held in Miami for 10 years that was not at the Orange Bowl stadium. It was the final NFL game by San Francisco 49ers’ coach, Bill Walsh, in which fans were treated to a spectacular game-winning touchdown pass by Joe Montana to John Taylor with only 34 seconds left in the game.
Torrential rains poured down throughout the entire game for Superbowl XLI and one-third of the lower seats in Sun Life Stadium were vacated by the second half. Many thought that the NFL Commissioners would ban further Superbowls from being played at Sun Life Stadium or any other uncovered venue. However, three years later, on February 7, 2010, they hosted the historic upset of the Indianapolis Colts led by the 10-time Pro Bowl quarterback, Peyton Manning, by Pro Bowl champ, Drew Brees, of the New Orleans Saints.
Since 1995, the Sun Life Stadium has hosted the Orange Bowl and it has also been the venue for the 2010 Pro Bowl. Since 2008, it has been the new home field for the University of Miami Hurricanes.
Joe Robbie’s vision of having the stadium designed for major league baseball was realized in 1993 when the Florida Marlins began playing there. The Marlins won their first World Series Game there in 1997 which at that time was called the Pro Player Stadium. In 2003, the Marlins won the World Series again, but this time it was at Yankee Stadium. Since the stadium was never designed to be a fully convertible stadium for football and baseball, there have been problems with seating capacity, especially during the World Series. The Florida Marlins will be moving to a brand new stadium in 2012.
Over the years, the name has changed from Joe Robbie Stadium, to Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Dolphins Stadium and Land Shark Stadium. Since January, 2010, it was renamed to the Sun Life Stadium, and will remain that way for the duration of the five-year naming contract, which generates $7.5 million per year for the owners, Stephen M. Ross and H. Wayne Huizenga. Hopefully the owners will use this money to make it a more enjoyable visit for those that buy Dolphins tickets.