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Fake marina with fake water steals the show at Miami Grand Prix

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Formula 1 envisioned a race in Miami and envisioned sun, sand, beaches and boats.

When the inaugural Miami Grand Prix landed at Hard Rock Stadium, a far cry from the South Beach setting F1 was looking for, the promoter said no worries.

F1 wants boats in a suburban area?

Done. They built a fake marina. With artificial water and all.

Well, there’s no water at all at The Mia Marina, located between turns 4 and 6 at the purpose-built venue surrounding 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 originally desired downtown location.

It’s not exactly Monaco, but the man-made marina is a 25,000-square-foot dry dock that looks like water. The 10 yachts are real – one appears to have been booked by Michael Mak, local founder of Celebrity Sports Entertainment; one waved the British flag; another is called “Wheels” – but the water is just plywood covered in a sticker.

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Tickets for the “Yacht Club” start at $9,500 up to $38,000 for a four-person pass.

It’s part of a five-star weekend experience created by Tom Garfinkel, Vice Chairman of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium and Managing Partner of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix. He has worked with owner Stephen Ross to transform Hard Rock Stadium into a global sports and entertainment venue worthy of the world’s top events.

Hard Rock has hosted Super Bowls, college playoffs, 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 in hard rock.

And on Saturday, former First Lady Michelle Obama watched an F1 practice session from the back of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton’s pits.

“Steve Ross had a vision for us to truly host the world’s great events and for that to be true Formula One has to be on that list,” Garfinkel told The Associated Press. “I don’t know that there is another stadium in the world that can claim to have Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, Patrick Mahomes and U2 and Jay-Z and Beyoncé and Messi and Neymar all in the same place to have had.”

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The event is currently the hottest ticket in esports. George Lucas was a 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 the McLaren Hospitality waiting for his friend Daniel Ricciardo.

“The demands from sponsors and fans have been overwhelming, unlike anything I’ve seen in my time in Formula 1,” said McLaren boss Zak Brown, an American. “I really like where we are in North America in terms of Formula 1’s popularity.”

Garfinkel was watching a race in Miami long before F1 had built a fast and frenzied American following 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 took place in early 2018.

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F1 had been bought by Liberty Media, an American company, and Garfinkel thought the US might have a chance to expand. Miami is the 11th venue for an F1 race in the United States, but the series struggled to gain traction late in the country. The US went four years without an F1 event before the Circuit of America in Austin, Texas brought the European series back to the States in 2012.

It took COTA years to grow, and behind the “DTS” mania, last year’s Austin race drew more than 300,000 people over three days. The US will have three races in 2023 when the Las Vegas Strip is added to the F1 calendar.

The enthusiasm is “mega”, said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

“The city is hyped – is that how you say it?” said Wolff. “Formula 1 is everywhere, the number of guest inquiries we have is incredible. I think we finally landed in North America.”

Visitor numbers have been capped at 85,000 per day to create a high-end experience free from long concession waits and the freedom to roam the vast grounds. A gondola can take guests from the marina to The Beach Club, where Post Malone competed against the F1 qualifiers.

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But there were hiccups, from clogged footbridges, long walks from point to point under the hot Florida sun, and traffic jams around the stadium. Some teams were upset Friday with the Paddock Club guest experience, which cost $11,000 for a three-day pass.

Brown warned against waiting until the checkered flag before grading Miami’s first race.

“Hosting a good event in its first year is a challenge to get it right given the size, scope and novelty,” Brown said. “But if you look at Austin 10 years later, they had a record attendance last year. Silverstone has been around for over 50 years and is already sold out. So I think it’s a great event and then it’s sustainable for decades – I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s definitely doable.

“Let’s just do it right, give the fans a good show, and I think there’s a tremendous amount of runways here.”

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https://www.local10.com/sports/2022/05/07/fake-marina-with-fake-water-steals-show-at-miami-grand-prix/ Fake marina with fake water steals the show at Miami Grand Prix

Nate Jones

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