New light towers erected at Orange Bowl
By Eric Kalis
The Orange Bowl will shine brightly when the University of Miami football team plays intrastate rival Florida State on Sept. 4. Miami workers have installed new light towers and fixtures, marking the beginning of an extensive renovation project for the landmark stadium.
The city hired management firm Jones Lang LaSalle for $6.5 million to help complete the Orange Bowl redevelopment by 2009, when the university's lease of the 341,946-square-foot stadium expires. Replacement of the light towers, a $2.5 million endeavor, was the first step in the project, expected to include expansion of concession stands and restrooms, upgraded seating areas and new scoreboards.
According to the project's Web site, those components of the stadium have not been updated since the 1970s. The objective of the project is to make it easier for fans to get around inside the stadium and have easier access to concourses, concessions and restrooms. Making seating more convenient and comfortable is part of the makeover for the 70-year-old venue.
Throughout the renovation, the Web site states, the Hurricanes will continue to play at the stadium, as major construction will be done between seasons. Designated areas undergoing renovations will be closed to fans in 2008.
Project officials are working under the assumption that the Hurricanes, the stadium's primary tenant, will continue to play at the Orange Bowl after UM's lease expires. While university officials have publicly said they plan to stay at the stadium, a college spokesman said no negotiations with the city are taking place.
City officials expedited the mounting of new lights after Hurricane Wilma caused substantial damage to one of the towers last year, said Gary Fabrikant, the assistant director of capital improvements and transportation. The project was begun in February, and a test of the lights Aug. 3 confirmed that they will be ready for the Hurricanes' season opener.
"The new light towers will be better able to withstand hurricane-force winds," Mr. Fabrikant said. "We worked with our lighting contractor, GEC Associates Inc., to ensure that they would be completed for this year's college football season."
Jones Lang LaSalle representatives are in the early stages of drafting a vision for the project with university, city and stadium officials, said John A. Paccione, senior vice president of the firm. Mr. Paccione said the firm was chosen by the city because of its extensive experience with stadium projects in cities such as Jacksonville and Chicago.
The firm will explore alternative development opportunities on land surrounding the stadium, he said.
Danette Perez, a spokeswoman for the city's capital improvements department, said the issue has not come up in planning discussions and surrounding land will be used for parking.
In November 2004, Miami-Dade residents approved $3 billion in General Obligation Bonds for infrastructure projects over the next 30 years, including $50 million for the Orange Bowl renovation. Project officials have received $84 million from city and county bonds and tax revenue, but Jones Lang LaSalle hopes to raise more money to bring the budget to $120 million, Mr. Paccione said.
Ms. Perez said the city is exploring ways to generate more money for the project but is not committed to the $120 million target.
Project officials are soliciting architects to design the renovation, Mr. Paccione said. A team of 12 Jones Lang LaSalle representatives will attend UM games with Florida State and Florida A&M to monitor the stadium's operations, he said.
"We want the Orange Bowl to be a fan-friendly, multi-use facility," Mr. Paccione said. "Most importantly, we want the University of Miami to remain in the Orange Bowl as its home playing field."
The Orange Bowl hosts concerts, festivals, boxing matches and soccer tournaments such as the annual Gold Cup.