Abel Sanchez, a die-hard Miami Stadium fan, set up a crowdfunding campaign in May to help erect the historical marker. When New Times reported about his effort June 22, the campaign quickly met its goal in just five days thanks to a handful of contributions from readers. Two of the largest donations came from Rolando Llanes, the Miami architect who executive-produced White Elephant, a documentary about the stadium; and Centennial Management Corp., which owns and manages Miami Stadium Apartments.
Sanchez is happy local baseball fans have stepped up to the plate to honor an important part of Miami’s history.
“Amazing news!” Sanchez says. “I couldn’t think of a more perfect ending to this campaign than to have Centennial Management come through to help us finalize our goal. I’m truly touched and humbled by how quickly all this came together, along with the support, kind words, and donations from within our community from Mr. Rolando Llanes of Civica on down.”
This feel-good story gets better, though, with another key player: Ruby Swezy, who passed away at the age of 92 in April, bought the land when the stadium was razed in 2001. The esteemed Hialeah schoolteacher, councilwoman, and affordable-housing developer had enough pluck to found a realty company at a time when development and property management was largely male-dominated. She was passionate about giving back to her community.
Her son Lewis Swezy continues the tradition as owner of Centennial Management. His wife Elizabeth hopes the marker will shed light on the former stadium’s role in Miami’s history.
“When I read the article, it all came together,” she says. “It’s a way we can give back to the community and a little something nice for my husband and tribute to my mother-in-law. We were happy to complete the amount needed for the marker. We’ll do a nice little groundbreaking ceremony whenever it's ready.”
Llanes is also thrilled about commemorating the stadium. “Given my involvement and the work I’ve done on it, I felt it was my duty to help and give it a boost,” he says. “I appreciate Abel’s genuine and humble effort to do something so simple yet so meaningful. It was important to him but also to so many others.”
Several donors reminisced about the stadium on the fundraising campaign’s page and emphasized how special it was to have a reminder of Miami’s past in plain view. As for Sanchez, he has a little more legwork to do — including completing reviews from the State of Florida’s Division of Historical Resources — before the marker is erected sometime at the end of the year, but the next month will be truly cause for celebration.
“It’s so cool!” he says. “It all ties in nicely to see the All-Star Game here at Marlins Park just two miles south of where the Marlins were born back in '56. It’s crazy.”