Forget about the glitz and glossy images of South Beach. The Super Bowl will once again be held in Miami Gardens, a predominately Black city that for years has been on the sidelines watching affluent towns in South Florida reap big bucks from fancy hotels, lavish parties and round-the-clock celebrations.
By Erick Johnson
It’s party time in Miami. After a 10-year drought, the Super Bowl has returned to the Magic City. Lizzo will be there. So will J Lo, Cardi B., 50 Cent, Snoop Dog and just about every Hip Hop A-lister on the planet. Super Bowl LIV is going to make South Florida’s busy tourism season bigger and busier.
Hotels are fully booked. Tickets to some of the hottest parties around town are selling out by the minute.
Some 6,000 media organizations from 25 countries have been credentialed to cover the big game.
At the center of the revelry is Hard Rock Stadium, where the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs will grind it out before millions of television households during America’s biggest sporting event. It’s where billionaire and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross will beam with pride years after he spent $500 million for a new roof for his stadium, to lure the big game back to Miami for the 11th time, the most of any city.
What many football fans don’t know is that the last six of these Super Bowls were held in a predominately Black city called Miami Gardens, and not Miami, as promoted by the NFL and the Super Bowl Host Committee.
Miami Gardens is where the Hard Rock Stadium is located. It’s where the Miami Dolphins play during the season. It’s also where Roger Federer and Serena Williams play at one of the richest tennis tournaments in America, the $17 million Miami Open.
Five Super Bowls, a Pro Bowl, two World Series, Orange Bowl college games, and high-profile concerts all have been held at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
In 2021, the stadium will host the College Football Playoff National Championship. The stadium was recently approved to host another annual global event, Formula One Grand Prix.
Nevertheless, the stadium’s exact location is seldom mentioned in brochures and nationally televised events.
Many residents outside South Florida won’t know about it unless they drive through the city to get to the stadium. The 140-acre Hard Rock Stadium campus is seemingly isolated from the city’s main street, NW 27th Avenue.
In recent years, a string of prominent banks, retail stores and food outlets have opened up on NW 27th Avenue after the city spruced up the area with towering palm trees and bushes that line NW 27th Avenue. Still the city has just one hotel near Hard Rock Stadium. Called the Stadium Hotel, it is a medium-priced hotel that has struggled to fill up during this year’s Super Bowl.
Despite being the actual host of the Super Bowl, Miami Gardens will have just one official Super Bowl event. Disenfranchised and stuck with less prominent venues, Miami Gardens’ economy will not get as big a boost from a Super Bowl that’s estimated to generate $500 million in the South Florida economy.
The city has struggled for years on the sidelines, watching affluent, predominately white towns in South Florida reap big bucks from fancy hotels, lavish parties and round-the-clock celebrations. While the affluent flock to these events and pump millions into thriving towns, Miami Gardens lags far behind in achieving similar success with events that aren’t as widely promoted and supported by Super Bowl organizers.
Governed by an all-Black city council with a Black mayor, Miami Gardens is located 15 miles north of Miami and 18 miles northwest of famed South Beach.
With 72 percent of 113,000 residents Black, Miami Gardens is the largest predominately Black city in Florida and the third largest in Miami-Dade County.
It was incorporated in 2003, after years of growth from professional and middle class Blacks who fled north to escape the urban problems of Liberty City and other Miami inner city neighborhoods.
According to the latest U.S. Census, the median household income in Miami Gardens is $42,398. Online realtor Zillow describes property values in Miami Gardens as “very hot” with an average price of $265,000, a 4.6 percent increase in the past. Just 10 minutes east of Hard Rock Stadium is Miami Gardens’ gated Coconut Cay neighborhood, a cluster of attractive, two-story homes that range from $291,990 to $356,990, according to developer D.R. Horton.
Miami Gardens in the past has been criticized for his violent crime rate, which at one point was more than 60 percent than the national average. But that rate has declined in the last 13 years, according to the latest crime statistics. Meanwhile, Miami Gardens continue to make strives in improving the quality of life in the city.
The city boasts prominent residents who have achieved national fame. They include the rapper Flo Rida and Jo Marie Payton, the matriarch on the ABC sitcom “Family Matters.”
Teenager Trayvon Martin lived with his mother in Miami Gardens before he was killed in 2012 while visiting Sanford, Florida. Prominent Congresswoman Frederica Wilson’s (D-FL) 24th District is in Miami Gardens, where she also lives.
Kansas City Chief cornerback Rashad Fenton grew up in Miami Gardens, graduated from Carol City Senior High and worked concessions at the stadium. Now he’s in the Super Bowl to help his team compete in the big game for the first time in 50 years.
Many Blacks in Miami Gardens attend the city’s popular annual “Jazz in the Gardens” in March, held on the grounds of Hard Rock Stadium. Last year the concert consistently featured high-profile Hip Hop, Rhythm and Blues artists, including Mary J. Blige, Usher, Maxwell and Toni Braxton. Now in its 15th year, “Jazz in the Gardens” attracts crowds of 70,000 people to Hard Rock Stadium. Most spectators are people of color, but whites and Latinos have increased in recent years.
Miami Gardens is also the home of Calder Race Track, located less than a mile north of Hard Rock Stadium. Opened in 1971, the horse track is owned by Churchill Downs, the corporation that runs the iconic Kentucky Derby in Louisville every May.
In 2021, the stadium will host the College Football Playoff National Championship. The stadium was recently approved to host the Formula One Grand prix at Hard Rock Stadium.
Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens was built in 1987 after the city of Miami refused to make improvements to the now-demolished Orange Bowl near the Little Havana neighborhood. Back then, the stadium was called Joe Robbie Stadium after the Dolphins owner and founder.
The stadium was built before Miami Gardens became a city in 2003. The area was a predominately unincorporated Black community called Carol City. In 2008, Stephen Ross purchased the Miami Dolphins, the stadium and surrounding land for a reported $550 million. In all, the stadium would go through seven name changes before Hard Rock purchased the naming rights for $250 million in 2016.
Miami Gardens hosted the Super Bowl in 1989, 1995, 1999, 2007 and 2010.
During the 2007 Super Bowl where the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Chicago Bears 29-27, spectators were soaked by torrential rains. After the 2010 Super Bowl, the NFL threatened not to hold another Super Bowl there until a roof was installed on the stadium. When a $200 million hotel tax was scrapped, Ross paid $500 million out of his own pocket for upgrades that included a roof over the stadium.
Today, Hard Rock Stadium sparkles with its palm trees, fountains, executive suites and jumbo screens.
Outside of the stadium and campus in Miami Gardens, there will be concerts and carnival rides, but this doesn’t come close to the bigger, official Super Bowl events that are miles and miles from Miami Gardens.
The NFL and Super Bowl Host Committee have promoted events in other cities, that cater to the well-heeled who pay thousands and thousands of dollars for lavish Super Bowl events.
They include the massive, glitzy NFL experience at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
The event is pro football’s interactive theme park offering participatory games, youth football clinics, merchandise from the NFL Shop presented by Visa, and autograph sessions with NFL players. The Super Bowl Experience also features personalized digital photos, a 40-yard dash and vertical jump against NFL players on LED screens, a virtual reality experience, an enhanced Super Bowl rings display, and photos with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
In neighboring Broward County at the posh Diplomat Hotel is another Super Bowl sanctioned event, the Taste of the NFL. Spectators can eat signature dishes from over 32 of America’s finest chefs. They also meet and get photos and autographs from more than 35 current NFL Players, Hall of Famers and legends.
Even this year’s Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday, January 27 was not held in Miami Gardens at Hard Rock Stadium. It was held at the Marlins Park baseball stadium near predominately Hispanic Little Havana. Media Day, where both Super Bowl teams speak with the press, was also held at Marlins Park.
Another big Super Bowl event, Super Bowl Live is being held 15 miles from Miami Gardens at Miami’s Bayfront Park. The fan festival features more concerts, live water shows, evening parades, and fireworks.
There are also countless private events outside of Miami Gardens that will include big-name performers, A-list celebrities and buffets fit for a Super Bowl Championship.
Big spenders who come to the Super Bowl are not pumping money into Miami Gardens’ economy.
The Crusader found that many of them are staying in hotels in other cities, including five star-venues where a three-day accommodation with two Super bowl tickets costs $14,000.
They include the Fontainebleau on Miami Beach, the Kimpton Epic Hotel in Miami, the Mandarin Oriental in Miami and The Biltmore in Coral Gables. As of Monday, January 27, all of these hotels were sold out.
At the same time, the low-priced 217-room Stadium Hotel near Hard Rock Hotel still had five rooms left at a cost of just $1,057 for a two-night stay.
On the popular travel website Trip Advisor, one person asked about information on moderate hotels near or around the stadium. Several people responded with suggestions at the new guitar-shaped Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. Another person said, “The stadium is not an area that people stay in.” The person suggested Miami and Miami Beach as options.
To help tourists, the Super Bowl Host Committee published a thick official guide on its website. Many listings were sleek full-page ads promoting affluent towns and high-profile Super Bowl events. Of the 94 pages, the second to the last page featured a full-page ad from Miami Gardens that said, “Miami Gardens, Home of Super Bowl LIV.”
You won’t find any Miami Gardens pictures on the Super Bowl Host Committee’s online page or anywhere on its website. website. Instead, the organization on the front page has a picture of the lush pool of the posh Delano South Beach Hotel, Miami Beach, with the Roman numeral LIV on top.
The Crusader on Tuesday, emailed the Super Bowl Host Committee seeking comment on this story. The organization did not respond by press time Wednesday.
Andre Williams, president of the Miami Gardens Chamber of Commerce said his organization wasn’t contacted or consulted by the Super Bowl Host Committee.
“Those folks are spending their money on Miami Beach and Miami or Las Olas Boulevard in Broward County,” said Williams, who formed the Miami Gardens Chamber of Commerce after seeing the city’s businesses and families struggle for years. “We’re not involved in those conversations. But we’re going to get involved.”
Miami Gardens taxpayers must help pay $1 million to put both Super Bowls at swank hotels that are not in their city. They include the J.W. Marriott in downtown Miami and the Aventura’s Turnberry Isle Resort. Miami Gardens’ police force is not compensated for providing security during the Super Bowl game. Meanwhile, Ross gets a $4 million bonus as a part of a deal with Miami-Dade County to land the Super Bowl.
According to Miami-Dade property records, Ross paid $4.6 million in property taxes in 2019, $4.5 million in 2018 and $4.2 million in 2017.
Miami Gardens’ first Mayor Shirley Gibson, fondly remembers when she persuaded the NFL to mention Miami Gardens as the actual host city during the 2007 and 2010 Super Bowls on its promotional spots.
“We got a lot of publicity that year,” she said. “Everybody knew that Miami Gardens hosted the Super Bowl. That was tremendous publicity that money couldn’t buy. It has changed tremendously this year. We don’t have much of it but I’m not able to expand on that.”
Less than one mile from Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens officials hope to compete with the inaugural Superfest, a two-day music festival that will feature up to 50 artists, including Hip Hop artists Cardi B and Chris Brown. The festival includes a fan village that features carnival rides.
“People are realizing that they must take charge in their own city,” said longtime Miami Gardens resident Charles Jackson. “The Super Bowl Host Committee and NFL aren’t looking after us so we must look after our own community.”