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Miami Orange Bowl: The End Of An Era

November 12, 2007 By Suzy in Miami: Local NewsMiami: Sports News  | 2 Comments

ABOVE: An ariel view of the Orange Bowl overlooking Downtown Miami.

Barring the occasional crowing rooster, the residential area surrounding the Orange Bowl is like any other in the country; kids playing in the street, parents on the sidewalk watching over them, barking dogs and teens zipping by way too quickly.  But not on select Saturdays during college football season- University of Miami Hurricanes home football games to be exact.  On these days, the ordinarily quiet area transforms into a 5 mile radius block party. 


On game days, the residential area is invaded with orange and green.  In typical game day gear, fans, students and parents arrive with painted faces, dyed hair strands, and even beads.  Dishing out upwards of $50 per car to park on residential streets within close proximity of the Orange Bowl, fans will overtake lawns and convert them into roadside barbecues.  Mini-tents will go up and radios will start blasting.  Home-made contraptions to guzzle beer come out and kegs begin to flow-all in the name of spirit; a spirit that will be no more.

Earlier this year, University of Miami president Donna Shalala, citing dilapidated facilities as the key factor, announced that the university would not use the Orange Bowl after the 2007 college football season but rather would be moving the team’s home field to Dolphin Stadium.  The decision brought mixed emotions to students and fans alike who say the Orange Bowl, rich in university history, is much more than just a football field.   

And it is.

Built in 1937, the Orange Bowl was originally named Burdine Stadium after Miami pioneer Roddy Burdine.  The Orange Bowl classic, for she which she is named, began there the year after but it wasn’t until 1959 that the stadium received a name change.

Orange Bowl Highlights Over the Past 70 Years

The Miami Dolphins played their first 21 years in the venue.  It was at the Orange Bowl where the Dolphins flourished under Hall of Fame Football Coach Don Shula.  The only undefeated season in NFL history was played there. Dan Marino made the stadium tremble with patrons when he broke the single-season passing record.  Actually, there was a steel structure in the end zone that fans would set to rumbling by stomping their feet.  They also had a dolphin in a tank at the end zone.  The Miami Dolphins enjoyed a level of success at the Orange Bowl that they have not been able to recreate at Dolphin Stadium.

The Orange Bowl ties the Rose Bowl for second place in the Super Bowl Host category having hosted five. Super Bowls like the one where Joe Namath shocked the crowd and made good on his Super Bowl promise, and the most famous upset in Super Bowl history: Super Bowl III, Jets vs Baltimore.
The Old Lady also crowned fourteen national champions when the Orange Bowl Classic was held there including three belonging to the University of Miami.

Not just rich in football history, in 1956, the Orange Bowl hosted the largest crowd ever for a minor league game.  57,000 came to watch a 50 year old pitch for the Miami Marlins.  The Orange Bowl has hosted international soccer teams as well as pro teams.  It was even the venue for some of the 1996 Summer Olympic events.  The Orange Bowl was also the place where the world crowned Welter weight champion Alexis Arguello following his bout against Aaron Pryor.

The original home of the Miami Dolphins, the Orange Bowl has seen many historic athletic moments.  Yet, even though the Orange Bowl is rich in athletic history, it’s actually been ground zero for some of the most memorable events in not only Miami’s but South Florida’s history as well.  Actually, the Orange Bowl boasts a remarkable fact.  No venue in the entire Southeastern United States has hosted as many games, names and memorable moments as the Orange Bowl has.

In 1946, just days before his famous “Sinews of Peace” speech, Winston Churchill spoke before a crowd of 17,500 spectators at the Orange Bowl as he accepted an honorary degree from the University of Miami.

In 1962, forty thousand men, women and children applauded as then President John Kennedy was handed the treasured brigade flag from the commander of the 2506 Brigade.  The 2506 Brigade, was a group of American-trained Cuban fighters sent to overthrow Castro in the ill fated Bay of Pigs invasion.  Those that were captured by Fidel were held in exchange for ransom that was paid later.  It was on that December 1962 day that the surviving members of the brigade walked on to the Orange Bowl’s field and were personally thanked by President Kennedy before a thunderous cheering Cuban crowd.


The same stadium became a cot-lined home to many Cuban immigrants during the Mariel Boat Lift in 1980.  The camp provided a safe haven for the refugees who, upon arriving in Key West, would be sent via bus to the Orange Bowl during the immigration process. 

U2, the Eagles, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, The Police, Metallica, Genesis and Prince have all performed at the Orange Bowl.  Actually it was the site of Prince’s Purple Rain finale where it was rechristened the ‘Purple Bowl.’ 

In 1995 Hurricane Wilma caused severe structural damage to the OB which was later repaired.  Incidentally, the stadium also served as a supply distribution locale following the storm.  Tens of thousands of desperate, unprepared people waited in lines for hours for basic supplied.  Cars sat in half mile lines for bags of ice.  They would line up again days later to apply for government assistance in the wake of the storm.

In recent years, the Orange Bowl has been home to monthly car sales outside the stadium, wrestling events, tractor pulls, car shows, international soccer games, FIU college football (as their new stadium is being built), high-school football games, religious revivals, and numerous commercial shoots; But no tenants that lasted as long or drew as many fans as the University of Miami did.

The Hurricanes with their 31-30 victory over Nebraska in the 1984 title game received their first national title there.  It’s a favorite memory amongst many Hurricane fans.  Later that year and equally as memorable is the most replayed ending in college football history: Doug Flutie’s 46 yard Hail Mary(Flutie) pass that connected in the end zone with the hands of Gerard Phelan to hand the defending National Champions a 47-15 loss to Boston College; and of course, who can forget any number of ‘wide’ kicks made by Florida State.  Sadly, the school’s farewell to the Old Lady would not be as joyous as any of the Seminole’s errant kick games. 


The Hurricanes played their last home game at the Orange Bowl on Saturday November 10th.  The ‘Old Lady’ as she’s referred to, once home to the nation’s longest winning streak, closed out her rein with an embarrassing loss to Virginia.  Nobody rushed the field. Officials quickly turned the scoreboard off following the university’s final goodbye to the place it called home for 70 years.

Even sadder than seeing the University of Miami leave it’s home, is the city of Miami’s decision to demolish the Orange Bowl.  In a move that’s angered many residents, the city of Miami has decided to free itself completely of the dilapidated sports mecca in the hopes of using the land for a new ballpark with a retractable roof for the Florida Marlins.  They will begin selling off pieces in early 2008 as memorabilia before tearing the Old Lady down.  The last event scheduled to be held is a high school football All-Star game.

I’ll be sad to see her go when the city begins demolition in 2008.  Much like many other residents of Miami, I have a “my first event” story at the Orange Bowl.  I first went there as a little girl in the 80’s with my aunt and cousin to see my first concert ever: Madonna.

It’s not just a field, stadium or venue, not to me anyway.  The OB is a another piece of my childhood I’ll be losing.

Related Categories: Miami: Local News, Miami: Sports News,

Suzy Newhouse is a homegrown herald at Miami Beach 411.  This cat loving, orange and blue wearing, SoFla native credits her strong Cuban family roots as the strength helping her raise her son.

See more articles by Suzy.

See more articles by Suzy

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2 Comments on

"Miami Orange Bowl: The End Of An Era"

BERNIECE - what is bronchitis says:

A mio parere, si sono errati. Dobbiamo discutere. Scrivere a me in PM, parlare.

Posted on 09/30/2009 at 11:52 AM

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