Mike Mangini gazed at the Orange Bowl, a once-glistening stadium near downtown Miami now replete with a rusting facade, decaying frame and well-worn fixtures.
"It's a dump," said Mangini, a South Florida hospital worker who has held Miami Hurricanes football season tickets since the 1980s. "But we love this dump."
Later this month, University of Miami trustees may decide if the Hurricanes should continue playing in the 70-year-old structure that needs an estimated $206 million in repairs. The other option is moving 16 miles north to Dolphin Stadium &
the newly refurbished, much-more-modern home of the Miami Dolphins and Florida Marlins.
If the Hurricanes stay, the city of Miami, which owns the Orange Bowl, has put together a plan to add suites, new restrooms and other amenities. If Miami leaves, the athletic department could gain another $2 million or more in extra revenue at Dolphin Stadium &
concessions and parking, mostly.
University officials say no decision has been made. Some fans, though, fear it's likely the 2007 season may be the Hurricanes' finale at the Orange Bowl, which the program has called home since Dec. 10, 1937.
"They're probably gone," said Dave Bargill, another longtime fan who lives near the stadium. "If they go, the city will probably knock the Orange Bowl down. So when they go, I'm not going with them, and I know I'm not alone. All the history here. Such a shame."
The Orange Bowl's place in history cannot be argued.
Satchel Paige, Cab Calloway, Merv Griffin and Martha Raye all headlined there &
on the same day. John F. Kennedy was a regular visitor, sometimes for football games, once to promise some 35,000 Cuban exiles that their homeland would one day be free.
Joe Namath's guaranteed Super Bowl win came there. "Hail Flutie" happened there, as did an epic fight between Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello. The perfect Miami Dolphins of 1972 called it home. Kellen Winslow and the San Diego Chargers beat the Dolphins there in perhaps the finest NFL playoff game ever played, a double-overtime classic.
The 'Canes won 58 straight home games over one stretch, an NCAA record. Three of their five national championships came at the Orange Bowl, too. (And that doesn't count three titles Miami's polo team won when they competed there long ago.)
Perhaps partly out of sensitivity on the ongoing issue, the current Hurricanes &
virtually all players and coach Randy Shannon, a Miami native, included &
are generally mum on the stadium topic.
"Whenever that decision is made, they'll make it, and it'll be the right decision for Miami, the city, the county and the University of Miami," Shannon said.
But many, including star safety Kenny Phillips, have previously said the lure of the Orange Bowl was partly why they became Hurricanes.
"Running out of the Orange Bowl tunnel is an amazing feeling," Phillips told The Miami Herald in March. "The stadium is filled with people and they're all screaming and it looks beautiful. Running out of Dolphin Stadium might not feel the same."
There's a sense among some move supporters that playing in Dolphin Stadium would help recruiting, even though the facility is farther from campus.
There's no replays at the Orange Bowl; Dolphin Stadium, meanwhile, has two of the largest replay screens in the world, along with all sorts of other high-tech bells and whistles that simply don't exist in the 'Canes current home.
"I don't necessarily wish for it, but I understand," former Miami star and newly enshrined Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin said. "Tradition is great. I tell people all the time it's great to have that tradition we have at the Orange Bowl. But we have to move. We have to keep up &
or all we'll have is that history. If we don't keep getting the recruits, we won't be able to make any more history. It's a business. People have to understand."
Not everyone does.
About 65 fans, including some longtime season-ticket holders, rallied outside the Orange Bowl last Saturday. Another 3,700 people who want Miami to continue playing in the stadium have signed an online petition, some leaving comments directed toward university officials.
Mangini, who organized the rally, can only hope someone at UM is listening.
"The Orange Bowl is the signature of Miami," Mangini said. "To have this not here any longer would be a travesty."
'Canes fans fight to save Orange Bowl