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.



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