MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Formula 1 imagined a race in Miami and imagined the sun, sand, beaches and boats.
So when the inaugural Miami Grand Prix landed at Hard Rock Stadium, far from the South Beach backdrop that F1 sought, the promoter said don’t worry.
F1 wants boats in suburban area?
Fact. They built a fake marina. With fake water and everything.
Well, it’s not really water at The Mia Marina, located between turns 4 and 6 on the purpose-built site around the Miami Dolphins stadium. It is on the corner of NW 27th Ave. and NW 199th St. in Miami Gardens, a landlocked neighborhood approximately 15 miles from F1’s original downtown downtown location.
It’s not exactly Monaco, but the man-made marina is a 25,000 square foot dry dock designed to look like water. All 10 yachts are real – one appears to have been booked by local Celebrity Sports Entertainment founder Michael Mak; one waved the British flag; another is called “Wheels” – but the water is just plywood covered with a decal.
Tickets for the “Yacht Club” started at $9,500 going up to $38,000 for a four-person pass.
It’s part of a five-star weekend experience created by Tom Garfinkel, Vice President of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium and Managing Partner of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix. He worked with owner Stephen Ross to transform Hard Rock Stadium into a global sports and entertainment venue worthy of the world’s biggest events.
Hard Rock has hosted Super Bowls, college playoff games, a major tennis tournament, international soccer, concerts, and the “Rolling Loud” music festival. From Jay-Z and Beyoncé to Serena Williams and Neymar, the biggest names have all been to Hard Rock.
And on Saturday, former First Lady Michelle Obama watched an F1 practice session from behind seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton’s pit.
“Steve Ross had a vision and for us to really host the big big world events, and for that to be true, Formula 1 has to be on that list,” Garfinkel told The Associated Press. “I don’t know if there’s another stadium in the world that can say it’s had Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, Patrick Mahomes and U2 and Jay-Z and Beyoncé and Messi and Neymar. all in one place.”
The event is the hottest ticket in sports right now. George Lucas was the guest on Saturday, as were Greg Norman, Michael Strahan and Jeff Gordon. England entertainer James Corden has been in the paddock for three consecutive days, and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen hung outside McLaren Hospitality waiting for his friend Daniel Ricciardo.
“The requests from sponsors and fans have been out of the ordinary, unlike anything I’ve seen in my time in Formula 1,” said McLaren manager Zak Brown, an American. “I really like where we are in North America in terms of the popularity of Formula 1.
Garfinkel was chasing a run in Miami long before F1 built a fast and frantic American behind the Netflix docuseries ‘Drive To Survive’. The race was only officially added to the 2022 calendar last season – giving the United States two races for the first time since 1984 – but the first meetings were held in early 2018.
F1 had been bought by Liberty Media, an American company, and Garfinkel thought the United States might have a chance to grow. Miami is the 11th different venue to host an F1 race in the United States, but the series had struggled to gain traction in the country until late. The United States went four years without an F1 event before the Circuit of America in Austin, Texas brought the European Series back to the United States in 2012.
It’s taken years for COTA to grow, and behind the “DTS” craze, last year’s race in Austin drew more than 300,000 people over three days. The United States will have three races in 2023 when the Las Vegas Strip is added to the F1 calendar.
The buzz is “mega”, said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
“The city is hype – is that how you say it?” Wolff said. “Formula 1 is everywhere, the number of guest requests we have is incredible. I think we have finally landed in North America.
Attendance was capped at 85,000 per day in an effort to create a premium experience without long concession waits and the freedom to roam the huge grounds. A gondola can take guests from the marina to the Beach Club, where Post Malone stood against F1 qualifying.
But there were hiccups, congested pedestrian bridges, long walks from one point to another in the hot Florida sun and traffic jams around the stadium. Some teams were upset Friday over the guest experience inside the Paddock Club, which cost $11,000 for a three-day pass.
Brown warned to wait for the checkered flag before ranking Miami’s first race.
“Running a good freshman event is a challenge to do everything right, given its size, scale and novelty,” Brown said. “But if you look at Austin, 10 years later, they had record attendance last year. Silverstone has been around for over 50 years and is already sold out. So I think having a big event and then the make it last for decades – I’m not saying it’s easy to do, but it’s clearly doable.
“Let’s do it right, put on a good show for the fans, and I think there’s a huge lead here.”
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