Monday, November 30, 2009

Nov. 30: One South Florida Jewel Returns; Now For the Other

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Welcome back, Hialeah Park.

The grand dame of Florida horseracing returned to action last Saturday, and more than 26,000 were on hand for the welcome. Hialeah Park will host quarterhorses and not the thoroughbreds that made it famous. It will also likely rely on the gambling that other pari-mutuels now have. But a fully restored Hialeah Park has a beauty other tracks can't boast and will host more family-friendly events, such as weddings, quinces and other celebrations. The park can also host outdoor concerts.

Speaking of outdoor concerts, Miami Marine Stadium once hosted plenty of them. The facility, which was built in 1964 and also hosted speedboat races and Easter sunrise services, has been closed since Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in 1992. The stadium is structurally sound, but covered with graffiti and in need of various repairs.

Its fate rests in the hands of the City of Miami. There are obvious reasons for the city's slowness to act - the economic crisis of the late 1990s and today - and the underlying rumble that city leaders wanted to raze the Miami Modern facility and put something tall and expensive there.

New Mayor Tomas Regalado is, thankfully, not among those rumblers; he has said he wants to see Miami Marine Stadium brought back to life. So do the National Trust For Historic Preservation and the World Monuments Fund, which have helped raise money to commission an engineering study to determine the cost of renovating the facility. So do many South Floridians, ranging from singer Jimmy Buffett, who performed there, to teenagers Hannah Imberman and Kira Feldman, who have been putting together a book about the stadium called "If Seats Could Talk."

Friends of Miami Marine Stadium has the latest information and ways for the public to get involved:

With one jewel - Hialeah Park - reopened, South Florida looks forward to another jewel - Miami Marine Stadium - glistening again on Biscayne Bay.


December 1 update: According to this morning's Miami Herald, it looks like yet another jewel - the Coconut Grove Playhouse - may have a second life, thanks to GableStage:

Forgive me if I still view the Playhouse's board and the Aries Development Group with some wariness. But GableStage has a great reputation in local arts. Here's hoping the organization gets to fully implement its plans for the historic playhouse.

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