When the City of Miami decided that it did not have enough money to fix or refurbish the Orange Bowl Miami Hurricane fans were saddened by the news. Then when the City of Lights went ahead and actually tore The Old Girl down many Hurricane fans were simply heartbroken.
Some fans literally cried, some screamed and cursed at City officials while others simply lamented the loss of a historic and iconic structure that could never, ever be replaced. They knew, somewhere deep in their collective hearts, that it was the end of an era.
And in fact, it was.
Now, standing where the old Orange Bowl once proudly stood (warts and all), is the sparkling and spanking new home of the Miami Marlins.
On Tuesday night Miami hosted Miami as the Marlins faced the Hurricanes in an exhibition game in what was described as a "soft opening" of Marlins Park in anticipation of the Grand Opening that will occur on April 4 when the Marlins host the St. Louis Cardinals in their 2012 season opener.
When I first walked around and then into Marlins Park I have to admit I was impressed. There is still plenty of work to be done and construction to be completed by April but the new stadium was all pretty and painted and all colorful and shiny just like any new sports facility should be.
But what Marlins Park clearly lacked most was character, a soul, a genuine spirit of competition. I got the impression from the tropical fish tanks in the walls behind home plate to the ridiculous piece of something that somebody apparently thinks is "art" that sits in left-center field that Marlins Park is as much a South Beach like tourist attraction as it is a baseball stadium.
Probably the most impressive feature of the new facility is the retractable roof. The roof was built to keep out the rain and heat that is so common in South Florida during the sweltering Summer months. On this relatively cool, breezy,full moon night in the 305 the official opening of Marlin's Park was upstaged by the first-ever closing of the retractable dome.
If you were lucky enough to be among the 10,000 or so Miami (Marlins and Hurricanes) fans to be present for the game you could not help but be impressed by the engineering and technological marvel as the roof slowly, gradually slid closed over the field.
As for the game, the college players from Miami were clearly excited to play on the big stage and played well taking an early 3-0 lead over their professional counterparts.
However, the pros from Miami would go on to win the game in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the ninth inning with a walk-off single to right field. It was a good start for the home team playing their first home game in their new ballpark.
I am and have been a huge Marlins fan. Here at Canespace there is a well documented history of my long-time affection for The Fish. I watched them miraculously win two World Series in their short history and have been to many, many games at the former venue where they played.
But this experience was very different. Before the game as I walked around the new facility, I felt a strange and sort of surreal feeling, almost like a presence was with me.
It was then that I realized I was standing in what was the West End Zone area of the former Orange Bowl. I was on sacred ground, and familiar terrain for any long-time Miami Hurricane fan.
I remembered the time I felt the old, aged stadium shaking under my feet from the stomping of the crazed fans as the opposing team's kick sailed wide right. I remember thinking that I wasn't really sure if the Old Girl could stand up to the beating she took that time as Miami fans celebrated another win over FSU.
I had a few flashbacks to the great games I had seen on this hallowed ground. There are too many games to name them all but there is no debate that some of the greatest games in the history of college football were played here on this very site on NW 7th Street and 12th avenue.
I remembered the smell of the beer and the sound of the battles and easily forgot about the lack of parking, terrible restrooms and the crumbling concrete and rusted steel. The excessively long lines for food and beverages and the too narrow, overly congested passageways of the outdated stadium had long since faded from memory.
And at that moment I would have gladly welcomed them all back.
Most of all I remembered the deafening roar of the crowd in the closed end of the field and the undeniable and intimidating swearing, sweat and swagger of the West End Zone crew. Make no mistake about it, those fans (myself included) had a lot to do with those 58 straight victories at the OB.
Then I as I calmed down and came back to reality, I stood there and I seriously thought about it. I finally accepted the fact that the Orange Bowl is gone forever and the new Marlins Park was built to replace all of that.
Then I looked around and found a semi-private area outside of the new stadium and took a knee.
I am not ashamed to say that I became pretty emotional as I remembered the glory of days past at what was the site of the historic Orange Bowl and as I hoped for a great future to come for all of the fans at the new Marlins Park.