May 2nd, 2009

Dolphin Stadium Set to Become Land Shark Stadium

By Barry Jackson
Miami Herald

The place where the Miami Dolphins play is likely getting a new corporate name. The team is expected to introduce Land Shark Stadium next week.

You knew it first as Joe Robbie Stadium, after the guy who built the place.

Then Pro Player Stadium, after a now-defunct sports gear maker.

Today, it’s Dolphin Stadium. But get ready soon for Land Shark Stadium, named for a brew that’s obscure now but has big aspirations: Land Shark Lager is a joint project of Anheuser Busch and Key West icon Jimmy Buffett.

Dolphin Stadium president Bruce Schulze confirmed Friday that a naming rights deal with Land Shark Lager is likely. The Dolphins are expected to unveil the new name at a news conference next Friday.

The deal’s payoff for Land Shark Lager is marketing. The payoff for Dolphins owner Stephen Ross—just like it is for the owners of U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Petco Park in San Diego, Safeco Field in Seattle, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte and Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.—is money, although no one was saying Friday how much the deal would bring the team.

To accessorize the stadium’s fifth name since it opened as Joe Robbie Stadium in 1987, Ross wants to open a Margaritaville-themed area inside the park.

Ross apparently has been searching for a minority owner, and he reportedly has approached Buffett. The deal could give Buffett incentive to invest.

A source close to the talks said the two sides discussed keeping the deal short-term, perhaps only through the end of the upcoming Dolphin season. The stadium will host next season’s Super Bowl in February.

Dolphins representatives declined to comment on the potential deal.

The stadium hasn’t had a corporate name since the Pro Player signs came down in 2005 after a decade.

Previous Dolphin Stadium owner H. Wayne Huizenga spent years searching for a partner to replace Pro Player, a sports apparel division of Fruit of the Loom.

The company filed for bankruptcy in 1999—four years into a 10-year, $20 million naming rights deal.

In 2005, the complex was renamed Dolphins Stadium. A year later, Huizenga dropped the ``s.’’

Huizenga sold majority interest in the stadium and team to Ross in January. Since then, Ross has been discussing ways to improve the game-day experience for fans.

Buffett and Anheuser-Busch launched a cooperative project in 2005 to produce Buffett’s own beer under the Margaritaville Brewing Label—one of several Margaritaville enterprises Buffett has created, including a restaurant chain and record company.

Among the ideas under discussion is adding original South Florida-themed artist renderings in the stadium, perhaps on stadium gates.

Though the stadium will be renamed after a beer, alcohol sales at Dolphin Stadium are cut off after half time at Dolphins games.

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