Project Spotlight: Miami Marine Stadium

Miami’s historic Marine Stadium has sat unused for 25 years, but revitalization efforts are finally underway.

Constructed in 1963, Miami Marine Stadium was the country’s first venue built specifically for powerboat racing. Located on Virginia Key just south of downtown Miami, the cast-in-place concrete facility was designed by architect Hilario Candela, then a 28-year-old immigrant from Cuba. His work draws comparisons to iconic structures like the Hipódromo de la Zarzuela in Madrid, Spain.

In the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the City of Miami alleged that the Marine Stadium was damaged beyond repair and needed to be demolished for safety reasons. After architectural preservationists and local citizens alike pushed back, an engineering study commissioned by the venue’s insurance company found that while it needed $2 to $3 million in repairs, most of the building’s issues stemmed from insufficient maintenance over the years, not hurricane damage.

This led to something of a stalemate. The Marine Stadium was deemed unsafe under the Miami-Dade County building code, but the city decided to leave it untouched and return the $1 million that FEMA had granted it to demolish the structure. As a result, the stadium has sat unused for the better part of 25 years, becoming a hotspot for graffiti artists across southern Florida.

Finally, last November, the City of Miami earmarked $45 million for a full renovation — including the construction of a new floating stage for concerts equipped with dressing rooms for performers — of the Marine Stadium and surrounding areas on Virginia Key. The city awarded the project to R. J. Heisenbottle Architects and gave Candela’s firm a consulting role, but before the restoration could move forward, Heisenbottle and Candela needed a highly accurate, comprehensive picture of the stadium’s current state on which to base their construction drawings.

Laying the Groundwork for Restoration

The project lead, Langan, a New York-based engineering and environmental consulting firm, was tasked with laser scanning and modeling the entire stadium. Using a Leica ScanStation P40 and UAV, the team spent three field days taking over 150 scans of the structure, using more than 300 targets both inside and outside of it. They also completed extensive unmanned aerial system (UAS), or “drone,” photogrammetry, capturing 330 unique images — 309 orthophotos and 21 oblique photographs — over two hours of flight time. This photogrammetry was then converted to additional point clouds, specifically for the purpose of capturing accurate existing conditions on the top side of the unique cantilevered roof.

Langan Technicians combined the laser scan and UAS photogrammetry data into a single Autodesk ReCap file. The resulting all true-color combined point cloud model included 3.1 billion data points. That’s where VIATechnik entered the picture.

VIATechnik engineers brought the point cloud scan into Revit and modeled the entire structure from scratch. The complex geometry of the roof and columns presented challenges in modeling using the basic tools within Revit, due to the tapering of columns, variable thickness in the roofs, and the arbitrary curvilinear transition between column and roof.

To ensure an accurate model for the column and roof, numerous reference slices were made running vertically and horizontally through the elements and profiles were extracted from these sections. The profiles were then swept from one profile to the next. Areas of greater deflection had higher degrees of slices. The end result was an element consisting of a number pieces of swept elements. In order to create a single solid geometry, these swept geometries were exported into AutoCAD as ACIS solids, and converted to a single element. This element was brought back into Revit, and converted to a freeform object to create one single piece representative of the structural element.

The detailed model had multiple uses: it provided Heisenbottle and Candela with all the information they needed to complete design development and served as a starting point for creating construction documents (CDs). The model also helped Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates — the project’s lead structural engineers — by providing an accurate representation of structural concrete volumes and geometries within the stadium. Furthermore, renderings from the model can now serve as talking points for preservation agencies, city officials, and residents in their effort to achieve realistic common ground.

Ultimately, the scanning, photogrammetry, and modeling work Langan and VIATechnik did on the Marine Stadium laid the groundwork for the successful renovation of one of Miami’s most celebrated historical structures.

“It’s wonderful to see my baby coming back again,” Candela commented in the Miami Herald. “It’s more important than ever in Miami.” At VIATechnik, we’re proud to have played our part in restoring the stadium to its former glory, and we believe our involvement will show that with the right technologies, people, and processes in place, you can meet even the most aggressive deadlines and deliver on challenging, complex projects.

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