Miami, UM dealing for plan to revitalize Orange Bowl Stadium
By Paola Iuspa
The City of Miami and the University of Miami are working out an agreement under which the school would commission a business plan intended to return the Orange Bowl Stadium to its glory days.
The university's football team - the 2001 national champion - is under contract to play there until 2010 but is the only full-time tenant at the city-owned stadium,
Before spending $16 million in Miami bonds to shore up the 65-year-old landmark and modernize it by adding VIP seating and other amenities, city officials want to set priorities for the future, said Otto Boudet, a senior adviser at the mayor's office.
"At this point," he said, "we and UM understand that the stadium needs a major overhaul."
Maritza Gutierrez, a member of the city's Orange Bowl Advisory Board, chaired by Commissioner Joe Sanchez, said her group supports the university's oversight of such a study.
"The business plan is supposed to be a road map to the success of the Orange Bowl," she said.
The six-month study would be done to determine the repairs and upgrades the venue needs to compete for new events as well as identify revenue sources to help pay for maintenance and future repairs, Mr. Boudet said.
"The report will show what it needs to be done and what other auxiliary uses can be put in place to increase revenues," he said.
In late January, the city commission plans to discuss a deal with the university that would make the school responsible for hiring a consultant to do the study as soon as possible.
The university agreed to take the lead on this effort in part to patch up relations with the city.
There had been tension between landlord and tenant since a 1999 city internal audit showed the school owed the city about $500,000 as part of its lease contract. The university contested the findings.
After months of negotiating how to solve the dispute, the university agreed to oversee the study in return for the city absolving the school from the contested debt, Mr. Boudet said.
He said both parties seemed satisfied with the settlement terms.
"One of the things we are asking UM," he said, "is that the consultant look at bringing the stadium up to standards" to be able to hold the Orange Bowl football game in Miami instead of at Pro Player Stadium in northern Miami-Dade County.
When the university's football team is not using the stadium, it is often used for concerts, soccer matches and festivals.
The Orange Bowl has an annual operating budget of $1.7 million and the city spends about $1.2 million in capital improvement there every year, city staff said.
Almost a year ago, the stadium's advisory board hired Front Row Marketing Services of Tampa to find buyers for the site's naming rights. The upcoming study would also analyze the sale of the Orange Bowl's naming rights as a way to add revenues, Mr. Boudet said.
John McDonald, senior vice president of Front Row Marketing of Tampa, said finding a name sponsor will take time and his marketing efforts have not yet produced viable prospects. On the other hand, he said, some beverage and food brands are considering buying exclusive rights to sell their products during games, concerts and other events.