Posted on Thu, Dec. 01, 2005
Orange Bowl won't be torn down
Miami leaders say they have no intention of tearing down the Orange Bowl and sending the University of Miami looking for a temporary home.
BY CHARLES RABIN AND MICHAEL VASQUEZ
After comments by City Manager Joe Arriola about demolishing the Orange Bowl left some Miami elected officials scratching their heads Wednesday, he backtracked -- slightly.
Arriola denied media reports that he said the Orange Bowl may have suffered structural damage from Hurricane Wilma and that plans were being considered to build a new stadium on the Little Havana site.
He claimed his statements were taken out of context, mixing answers from two different topics: damage sustained from Wilma and long-standing plans to refurbish the stadium.
He admitted to previously telling University of Miami athletic director Paul Dee that if renovations warrant it, the football team might have to find another place to play in 2007 -- though he called that unlikely.
UM, which has a contract with the city of Miami to play in the Orange Bowl through 2009, is the stadium's main tenant. The city has a long-planned $110 million renovation for the stadium that is supposed to get under way after the 2006 football season.
Some media outlets reported that Arriola had said earlier in the day that if enough structural damage was found from Hurricane Wilma, the venerable 68-year-old building could be torn down.
Later, he denied that.
''I don't believe there's anything wrong,'' Arriola told The Herald. ``Our engineers said there's nothing wrong.''
The Associated Press quoted Arriola as saying: ''We might tear it down and build a new Orange Bowl.'' Local NBC affiliate WTVJ-6 said Arriola said he was concerned with the structural integrity of the stadium.
`I'LL BE DAMNED'
News that the UM Hurricanes could be looking for a new place to play football in the 2007 season spread quickly. And Arriola's reported statements left some Miami commissioners miffed and bemused.
''First of all, Joe Arriola does not make that decision. Policy decision is made by the commission,'' said Commissioner Johnny Winton, a longtime Hurricane season ticket-holder. ``There's no plan to tear the Orange Bowl down. And I'll be damned if I do anything to send the Hurricanes to Dolphins Stadium.''
Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez was just as blunt:
``There's no truth to it. He just got back from vacation; maybe he's just jet-lagged or something.''
Mayor Manny Diaz, through a spokesman, said much the same thing.
''There are no plans to bring down the Orange Bowl,'' said Alejandro Miyar, Diaz's press secretary.
Arriola did say that now that the Florida Marlins were no longer in the picture, the city and the university could move forward with plans to upgrade the Orange Bowl.
The Marlins' plans to build a new baseball stadium next to the Orange Bowl died last week after the team threatened to move to another city and quickly traded away several prominent players. The Marlins play their home games at Dolphins Stadium.
Arriola said in past renovation discussions with Dee, he mentioned the possibility of UM being displaced for a season. ''It's what I've been saying for the past two years.'' said Arriola. ``I don't want to make the mistakes of the past patching up the Orange Bowl.''
Miami now has about $80 million for repairs and refurbishment of the stadium beginning in 2007, though the total project is expected to cost more than $100 million.
City leaders hope to make the Orange Bowl attractive enough to draw other professional sports, like international soccer.
Dee said he recalled some mention of razing the 72,319-seat structure, but only during discussions that involved the Marlins building a new ballpark at the site.
Dee also denied the structure was unsafe, saying UM and the city never would have let students and the public into the stadium for games after Wilma against Atlantic Coast Conference foes North Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Virginia.
Wilma damaged the stadium's light banks, a chain-link fence on the upper deck and a radio tower.
But the building itself was declared structurally sound.
''They wouldn't let them go in there if there was any question,'' Dee said.
TALKS NEXT WEEK
UM and Miami officials are set to meet next week to discuss the future of the Orange Bowl -- one of the nation's most well-known sporting venues, but old and rickety and lacking skyboxes and modern bathrooms and concession stands.
The Hurricanes have played in the Orange Bowl since it opened in 1937. And Winton said as long as he has a say, their play there will not be interrupted.
''If a nuclear bomb is dropped in Miami, we may have to consider several options,'' said Winton. ``But there is no plan to tear down the Orange Bowl.''