The World Cup strengthens its focus on Hard Rock Stadium as a “global entertainment destination”

MIAMI – Some of the curves and bends at the Miami International Autodrome were still easy to see from the Hard Rock Stadium suite level on Friday when South Florida local government representatives, Miami Dolphins and Visitors Office representatives gathered there to welcome them. 2026 FIFA World Cup in Miami-Dade County.

It’s been less than a month since Miami Gardens inaugurated the Miami Grand Prix, making the Hard Rock field a worthy race track for Formula One. There have been barely two facilities since the facility hosted the Miami Open in 2022, turning the campus itself into a world-class tennis complex, spread across 30 courts across the hall. In a few months, the stadium will be completely transformed again, ready to host at least 10 Dolphins games and seven games for the Miami Hurricanes.

Even before FIFA announced on Thursday that it would bring the 2026 World Cup matches to Miami-Dade County, there was no place like Hard Rock Stadium. Now, it’s even more noticeable.

“We had a vision to be a global leisure destination here,” said Tom Garfinkel, general manager of Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. “With the national championship games, the Super Bowl, the Miami Open tennis, definitely Bat Formula, of course the Dolphins’ games, and now we’re hosting the 2026 World Cup here, I think that’s taking that view.”

The facility has already hosted six Super Bowls, five national college football championships, 25 Orange Bowls, three Miami Open, World Baseball Classic games, a WrestleMania and a Formula One race. The World Cup was one of the few tentative events missing from his resume.

The United States only once again hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1994 and the stadium, then called Joe Robbie Stadium, did not host the Miami Marlins, then known as the Florida Marlins, who had conflicting home matches on the pitch. with the tournament.

“It’s a potential generational opportunity,” said Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez.

Now the Dolphin House is invulnerable. It started in the 1980s, when Robbie formulated the idea of ​​a stadium that could easily accommodate football games, and took on a new life with the vision of Stephen M. Ross and Garfinkel.

In 2017, the two attracted a replay of El Clasico — the historic rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Spanish League — at Hard Rock Stadium. In 2019, they proved that Hard Rock could do more than just organize events inside the stadium when it first moved from Miami Open Key Biscay to Miami Gardens, where it is often played on open courts.

Their biggest achievement, at least for now, was the Miami Grand Prix, making those muddy parking lots and pitches unrecognizable, replaced with a race track and a weekend party.

In a way, the 2022 Miami Grand Prix (GP) test was the perfect case. Garfinkel said FIFA representatives had come to see the campus last month – essentially transporting part of Miami Beach to the Miami Gardens – and could reuse some of those ideas at the 2026 World Cup.

“It will be similar to what you see for the Super Bowl and F1 event, where there will be a lot of hospitality in and around the hall, some permanent, some temporary,” Garfinkel said. “There will be a lot more activity here on campus than just matches.”

Like the Miami Grand Prix, the World Cup should also attract an international audience.

This was another easy selling point for FIFA. Dade County is one of the most diverse in the country, officially nicknamed the “Gateway to America,” and Miami International Airport was the busiest gateway for international travelers to the United States in 2021, according to Airports Council International.

“When you talk to FIFA,” Garfinkel said, “you’re talking about Miami’s attractiveness as a global destination.”

Is there another bigger limit to Hard Rock Stadium at the moment? At the moment, he has organized an event in all major sports, but basketball, hockey and golf.

“That’s a good idea,” Garfinkel said, laughing at the idea of ​​turning the hall into a golf course. “Maybe somewhere else. Not here. “

Really, the World Cup is the last thing Hard Rock Stadium had to check.

“We’re running out of dates and we’re running out of space,” Garfinkel said, “so I can’t do much more, but we’ll keep going. Being a World Cup is a big deal, of course. ”

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