MIAMI — Football was once a beloved escape on the former site of the Orange Bowl where Marlins Park now sits.
In December 2014, football will make its return for the Miami Beach Bowl at Marlins Park, as announced by the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and Miami Marlins on Thursday morning.
“When I saw the Orange Bowl get razed, I knew in the back of my mind that wouldn’t be the last football ever played on this site,” Marlins president David Samson said.
“I was thinking back to the Orange Bowl and the last game the Hurricanes played in 2007, and these are hallowed grounds where you’re sitting now. The tradition of college football — postseason, regular season. It should continue, and we couldn’t be happier to partner with the conference.”
Contracted for six years through 2019, an AAC team will compete in the Miami Beach Bowl each season against an opponent from Conference USA, the Sun Belt Conference or the Mid-American Conference. There is also the chance an institution from another conference could participate.
AAC commissioner Mike Aresco called it a landmark day for the conference, formerly known as the Big East.
“Our goal when building partnerships is to play great opponents and desirable destinations that are also accessible to our fans,” Aresco said. “Of course the Miami Beach Bowl meets and exceeds all of these objectives.”
Senior associate commissioner of the AAC Nick Carparelli said he and representatives of the Orange Bowl, which takes place each bowl season at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, have already been in cooperation.
The naming of the bowl as well as its Welcome to South Beach-inspired logo tie into both national branding and identification. Though the park resides in the Little Havana neighborhood, downtown and Miami Beach are just 10 and 20 minutes away, respectively.
“When people who aren’t from this area think about coming to vacation here they think of Miami Beach,” Carparelli said. “Many people across the county think Miami Beach is simply a beach in Miami.”
There will be a 34,000 (20,000 lower bowl) seating capacity with a maximum of 40,000 depending on demand. Bleachers may be added in left field. Some seats in the home run porch will not be made available because of obstructed views. The same goes for some rows in Sections 1-6.
Carparelli said tickets will go for $60, not including premium seats, a “reasonable price” for a bowl game.
A TV agreement has not been made, but will determine the official date of the game. The Miami Beach Bowl will be played sometime before Christmas, possibly Dec. 22 or 23.
According to Claude Delorme, executive vice president of operations and events, the field will be of a north-south configuration heading toward right field. The Marlins will be in charge of expenses such as re-sodding the field and buying the goalposts.
Delorme said the roof and wall will be open, but there is the flexibility of closing them. The home run sculpture will be put to use, according to Samson, but it will be up to the AAC as to when it will go off.
Samson first received a call from the interim commissioner of the conference 13 months ago about the prospect of a bowl game at the site. Miami Beach Bowl staff will actually occupy office space at Marlins Park.
“This was not the first call this was the second one, but this one sounded right,” Samson said.
Last November, Marlins Park hosted its first non-baseball sporting when Venezuela and Nigeria played a soccer friendly.
At the time, Sean Flynn, senior vice president of marketing and events at Marlins Park, hoped college football would come next whether during a regular season game or bowl.
Three Major League ballparks are currently part of college football’s postseason: AT&T Park (Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl), Yankee Stadium (New Era Pinstripe Bowl) and Tropicana Field (Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl). Wrigley Field hosted a regular-season game in 2010.
Coral Gables-based The Washington Economics Group conducted a study that projected a $34 million impact for the community during the week-long bowl experience.
“Come offseason, post-October the world’s the oyster because of the building we built,” Samson said. “This is exactly what we envisioned.
“When we talked about this ballpark we talked about being a part of a world-class city. This is not just about baseball but events like this.”