Dolphin Stadium officials conducted a hard hat tour on Wednesday of the stadium's ongoing $213.5 million construction project, where workers are busy welding, painting and adding glass panels.
The project, which began last year with the addition of 360,000 square feet of concourse space on the stadium's north and south sides, is now fully focused on the club level, where well-heeled fans are expected to find lots more concession areas and restrooms, new bars and lounge areas, American Walnut appointments, carpeting, high definition televisions and lights that can be dimmed.
While the stadium has not entered into contracts with outside restaurants, the stadium's concessionaire, Boston Culinary Group, will be offering up a variety of menus. There will be separate high-end dining areas and display kitchens where fans can watch chefs prepare their food, stadium president Bruce Schulze said.
The club level is expected to be open with its new amenities by Aug. 1, meaning in time for Dolphins' preseason and the last two months of the Marlins' season, Schulze said. The 100 and 400 levels, for fans with the less expensive tickets, will also be outfitted with new extras, but the bulk of the work there will be done in 2008, stadium officials say.
Dolphins and stadium owner H. Wayne Huizenga is paying $63.5 million toward the $213.5 million project, with bonds being issued for the the rest, said Bill Pierce, Dolphins Enterprises chief financial officer.
Schulze said the improvements are aimed at enhancing the experience for fans, whether they come to a Dolphins or Marlins game or a concert. He said there will be 50 percent more concession areas and 50 percent more restrooms. The restrooms will be outfitted by Kohler, the plumbing fixture manufacturer, and will have different designs.
"A lot of what you see our guests have told us they would like to see," said Joe Bailey, CEO of Dolphins Enterprises. "Enhanced restrooms, more space to lounge."
The club level is covered on the outside by a lattice framework and a wall of glass paneling, which Schulze said is to evoke a cruise ship and have a "South Florida feel." The glass, which is currently being installed on the north side and can be seen from Florida's Turnpike, is two-toned - some panels are green, some are blue - and creates a unique view.
Stadium officials said the venue, which turns 20 this year, was among the first of the current wave of new football stadiums, so its structure is sound, but its look and amenities needed updating to keep up with changes in the sports industry and the extras in new stadiums.
They say the 400 level will be the largest in the league and like the plaza level will be outfiited with tiki bars complete with sand - as they were at Super Bowl XLI in February - or beer gardens and other activities. The 400 level will not be covered, but will feature "communities of shade," with umbrellas and awnings, Schulze said.
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