Nine South Florida Music Venues You've Probably Forgotten About

These seats haven't seen butts in quite some time.
These seats haven't seen butts in quite some time.
Photo by Ian Witlen

Back in the day, South Florida had a wealth of concert venues both large and small, all suitable spaces for attracting national and international touring bands that came from both near and far. We still have a few left, of course, but those of us who went to concerts back in the day — those days being the '70s and '80s — still retain fond memories of shows in long-forgotten and demolished buildings.

Places like Grand Central and Tobacco Road are still fresh in our collective memories, but there are some venues that have slipped into the cracks of our subconscious.  

Here’s a look back at some of the places that either no longer exist or aren't what they once were — but are still forever engrained in local music history.

Not the prettiest building in town.
Not the prettiest building in town.

9. Hollywood Sportatorium.

No single venue is as famous — or shall we say, infamous — as the Sportatorium. A cavernous hulk of a building that inspired both disdain and devotion, it was located in the far western reaches of southern Broward county, making it accessible only by the then two lanes of State Road 84. Traffic to and from was frequently a nightmare, and once there, the seating and sightlines were often bleak (to say the least). As a former record company rep, I have horrible memories of banging on the wire fence that sealed off the backstage, desperately trying to get the attention of a road manager for my backstage pass. Still, the Sportatorium did attract the bigger draws of the day: Elton John, Bob Seeger, and Bob Dylan all performed there because there was no other place of suitable size. Personally, it still gives me the shudders just to think about it.

The Jai Alai doubled as a music venue in its day.
The Jai Alai doubled as a music venue in its day.
Photo by Stian Roenning

8. Miami Jai Alai.

The original intent of the Miami Jai Alai was not to host concerts but rather to become ground zero for Latin America’s so-called Sport of Kings. However, when the owners realized that they could expand their draw by holding shows there, the Jai Lai brand quickly became a musical mainstay. Although it had a limited capacity — around 3,000 — its tiered seating and convenient location near Miami International Airport made it one of the most accessible places for catching a show. Since its renovation and transformation into the Miami Casino, its musical bookings have dwindled, replaced by slot machines. But the roll call of headliners that came through there was impressive: a still budding Bruce Springsteen, Carole King, Steve Martin, and King Crimson, among many more.

7. Sunrise Musical Theater.

Considering the fact that most of our concert locales were often kind of crude, the Sunrise Musical Theater provided more than a hint of upscale civility. Situated in South Broward, it was an ideal destination for those coming from either north or south, and due to a seating arrangement that practically circled the stage, the sightlines were superb. Barry Manilow, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jerry Seinfeld, and Little Richard all stopped there at one time or another, and when the place was closed — presumably for financial reasons — a collective groan could be heard many miles away. 

The Marine Stadium could be making a comeback thanks to some fundraising efforts.
The Marine Stadium could be making a comeback thanks to some fundraising efforts.
Photo by Ian Witlen

6. Miami Marine Stadium.

No place stirs as much nostalgia as the old Miami Marine Stadium on Key Biscayne, and no place better represented the tropical ambiance unique to our environs. Anyone who went there is prone to share fond memories of watching live music in the stadium seating, or — better yet — from a boat docked nearby. Local icons like Jimmy Buffett and Gloria Estefan made it a regular stop, and news broke recently that efforts are underway to restore the stadium to its former glory. We'll continue to wait and see.
 

Where Keith Moon had a little too much fun.
Where Keith Moon had a little too much fun.

5. Miami Baseball Stadium (AKA Bobby Maduro Miami Stadium).

The Baseball Stadium is long gone now, replaced by a far more modern stadium. Back then, however, baseball was even less of a big deal in Miami than it is today, which is certainly saying something. This was pre-Marlins, of course, and the stadium was located in the shadow of downtown, just across I-95. It wasn’t exactly the most popular place to go. Nevertheless, it did have its share of stars come through, with Steve Miller and the Stephen Stills/Neil Young Band chief among them. (Sadly, Young decided to desert the tour the day before the scheduled show, leaving Stills to carry on alone.) The most ill-fated event to occur there took place when the Who performed and drummer Keith Moon opted for a preshow appetizer of horse tranquilizers, causing him to collapse at his drum kit and spend several days in a South Florida hospital.

4. The Flick.

Situated next door to the UM campus, the Flick was South Florida’s premier folk club throughout the '60s and early '70s, consistently ranking among the best coffeehouses in the country. The list of luminaries that performed there is truly impressive: Joni Mitchell, Steve Goodman, Fred Neil, Vince Martin, and comedian Gabe Kaplan, among many more. The place was shuttered in the mid-'70s only to be replaced by the Titanic Restaurant and Brewery, a place which still hosts bands of the local variety. A 2014 reunion brought many of the Flick alumni back to celebrate with music and memories, but sadly, it seems that era of Miami music history is over.

The Orange Bowl was a chunk of Miami history.
The Orange Bowl was a chunk of Miami history.

3. Orange Bowl.

Here’s another South Florida landmark that gave way to modern development — and not necessarily for the better. Today, the controversial Marlins Park sits where the Orange Bowl stood. Once, however, the Orange Bowl was not only a local landmark but a nationally recognized one as well, the only venue in our area equipped to handle bigger bands like the Rolling Stones, who made a stop there during an early '80s tour.

Before Art Basel, the Convention Center hosted shows with bands like Led Zeppelin.
Before Art Basel, the Convention Center hosted shows with bands like Led Zeppelin.

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2. Miami Beach Convention Center.

Back in the '70s, the Miami Beach Convention Center was a far different establishment than it is today. It was much better suited for watching concerts than it was for hosting car shows. My memories of the place are tainted by ill-fated encounters — watching Led Zeppelin around the time of the band's second album and having my view blocked by a pillar placed directly in front of my seat. Then there was the time when my then-girlfriend and I went around to the stage door and insisted we were on the backstage list, only to have a Miami Beach cop reply by shoving his fist into her stomach. Not nice, Officer.

The Miami Arena was the setting for some of Miami's best concerts.
The Miami Arena was the setting for some of Miami's best concerts.

1. Miami Arena.

The most obvious example of the city’s lack of foresight has to be the once-lauded arena that stood just west of Biscayne Boulevard in a neighborhood where parking your car sometimes resulted in an ominous encounter with local panhandlers. Initially, however, it was touted as Miami’s newest and best sports and entertainment facility. Cuba's Los Van Van nearly caused a riot when they performed there in '99. A few years later, it was abandoned over concerns of the safety of its setting, and a new arena was built next to Bayside. Seems like a waste of money, but then again, who’s to argue with the Heat?


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