The old saying goes, “I remember like it was yesterday”. About a decade ago – when young males called their homeboys domestic animal names like, “my dogs” or “ you a crazy cat” – I was with my boy Junior, whose government name is Hector, and my younger cousin Alvaro, nicknamed Snowflake. Junior’s 1989 Buick Riveria, which he named Wendy, was our ride for the night; a notorious night which I never thought I’d be writing a blog about years later. I guess that’s what they mean when they say “God has a sense of Humor”. I loved Junior’s car; it was like the Batmobile minus all the cool gadgets. Okay, maybe it wasn’t like the Batmobile, but it was still amazing! It was the getaway car I used to skip school while attending Braddock Senior High, and it was also the place where I kissed a girl on the lips for the first time. This car was legendary, and like George Herman “Babe” Ruth said in the movie, The Sandlot, “Heroes get remembered, but Legends never die.”
We were trying to find something fun to do for the evening. People who live in Miami like to tell outsiders “We live where you vacation”, but it’s amazing how the extraordinary can become ordinary; how the unorthodox can become mundane. Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road did absolutely nothing for me. To me, true experiences come when you can make something out of Ex Nihilo (nothing). So like the Power Rangers, we teamed up and put our minds together. Suddenly it hit us, there’s a gold mine just waiting to be explored in an island called “Virginia Key”, just south of South Beach. None of us had been there, and we were tired of hearing about this place from secondhand experiences. We jumped in the Batmobile – I mean Wendy – and made our way to the island.
This Island was forgotten and didn’t quite make the cut for Will Smith’s “Welcome to Miami” video. However, the island was home to a historic, abandoned structure, Miami Marine Stadium. Like South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore, it’s random but monumental. The Miami Marine Stadium was built in 1963 and designed by Cuban architect, Hilario Candela. Capable of seating 6,566 souls, the stadium hosted events like motorboat shows, boxing matches, concerts, Easter Sunday services, as well as the famous campaign rally in 1972 for President Richard Nixon, who was introduced by the late, great Sammy Davis Jr. However, what really made this place a classic was its iconic view of the downtown Miami Skyline. It’s the type of view where you can take a girl on a date, say absolutely nothing, and still have a great time! Unfortunately, the stadium was declared unsafe by Miami Dade County building codes after Hurricane Andrew swept through Miami in 1992.
Since then, the stadium has been discarded and is now a canvas for graffiti artist to come make their inscriptions. Once we reached our location we decided to park on the other side of the street and make our way by foot. When our eyes finally saw the ark of the covenant we were filled with euphoria. The only thing that was standing in our way was a fence, which we cleared like a prison break. Feeling like renegades with our chests puffed out, our confidence quickly drained like Rhonda Rousey after the Holly Holm’s fight as we saw lights. We looked to the right and saw a dark car with tinted windows shining their headlights. Moving at about 5 miles per hour, the car came toward us. We realized that this was an authority figure telling us, “You don’t got to go home, but you gotta get out of here”. We quickly made a U-turn and began the walk of shame back to the car.
The rest of the night is a blur to me, and as I write this I can say that I have never been inside Miami Marine Stadium. I tried again years later and was once again denied by an officer. I was told by friends who had conquered this historic spot that the only way in is through the side of the stadium where you won’t be seen. As I did more research on the marina, I learned three important things: first, the place is absolutely gorgeous. I saw images online, and I can see what the fuss is all about. It has an amazing view like I mentioned earlier, and the graffiti covering the structure makes it a photographer’s dream for deep, introspective pictures. Second, organizations like F.M.M.S (Friends of Miami Marine Stadium) and M.S.E.A (Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority) are working alongside the Miami City Commission to restore Miami Marine Stadium back to its glory days. Even singer, Gloria Estefan has donated to the cause.
Destruction is not on the horizon, resurrection is! The goal is not only to preserve the land, but to give it CPR so that boat shows and concerts can once again flourish on this little island.
Third, what a beautiful picture of the Gospel and God’s plan for this world. This once beautiful, pristine stadium, has fallen from grace, but despite its current state, being desolate and full of decay, there is still tremendous beauty. From the beautiful art drawn on the seats and walls, to the scenery of the heavens, ocean, and skyscrapers.
It’s like walking into a paradox – then we get news that there is hope. This landmark will soon be restored to its days of preeminence and prestige.
Just like the Miami Marine Stadium, this world was once pure, immaculate, and flawless, but then disaster came and now we live in a world where our eyes see both pleasure and pain; prosperity and poverty; heroes and villains; good and evil. But just like the good news of the hopeful renovation of the Miami Marine Stadium, there are also plans for this world to one day get a makeover, and Jesus is the architect. I don’t know when or how this will take place, but there’s one thing that I do know: deep inside our hearts….we all long for it.
Written by Oscar Urbina