Sports

Eleven Things We'll Miss About the Dolphins' Old Training Facility in Davie

Winning a championship simply isn't even a consideration anymore.
Winning a championship simply isn't even a consideration anymore. Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
Players are set to begin practicing today at the Miami Dolphins training camp, and for the first time since 1993, it won't be at the Nova Southeastern University campus in Davie. Instead, the Dolphins will hold their first training camp at the Baptist Health Training Complex, a state-of-the-art, 227,000-square-foot facility in Miami Gardens.

Fans are invited to attend beginning Saturday, but it'll be a bittersweet moment. For nearly four decades, the Nova Southeastern fields were where fans got their first glimpse of the team to come. Many longtime Dolphins fans grew up attending practices in Davie.

While the new facility is incredible and certainly beneficial to everyone from the players to the fans, we'll all sort of miss the old digs. You know, in the same way you miss your favorite worn-down shoes when you finally have to throw them away.

Here, in no particular order, are 11 things Miami Dolphins fans will miss about the team's old training facility in Davie. Goodbye, sweet pastures of our youth. Gone, but never forgotten.

The Chainlink Fence

Any Miami Dolphins fan worth their weight in footballs knows what someone is talking about when they mention the chainlink fence at Nova. It's a situation.


Most Dolphins fans under 45 can remember clutching a football or a program in one hand and a Sharpie in the other, praying a Dolphins player would stop to sign autographs. If you were lucky enough, they'd take a moment to smile so you could take a picture of them from behind a fence.

Heatstroke

For years, Dolphins training camp was known as the hottest place on Earth. There was no canopy (they added that years later). The bleachers were as hot as the face of the sun. You just dealt with it. It was part of the tradition.

The struggle was part of the experience at Dolphins training camp. It hardened you as a fan and built character! Now people just click a livestream and watch practices while eating Chipotle, then take to Twitter and complain about how players look.

We're assuming the new $135 million digs will be much more comfortable — which will be nice — but we'll kind of miss the struggle.

The Spies Theory!

The thing about practicing out in the open with parking garages hovering over the fields is that, in theory, the New England Patriots can park a car and tape all your plays.

For years, the Dolphins have struggled with this. Management even went as far as banning the use of cell phones while attending practices. The constant cat-and-mouse game that went with trying to keep a public practice private was always an entertaining aspect of Dolphins training camp.

Meeting the Dolphins Cheerleaders

If you didn't have an autographed photo similar to the one above hanging on your wall as a kid, were you even a Dolphins fan? As a boy growing up in South Florida, the dirty little secret in the back of your head was that in addition to seeing the players, you knew you were gonna get face-to-face with Dolphins cheerleaders. When you're 10 years old, that's basically a religious experience.

We're sure the Dolphins cheerleaders will be out in full force in Miami Gardens, but it will be tough to replicate the experience of meeting them at a table set up in front of a shady concession stand.

The Sounds

There will be many things that translate from Nova to the new Miami Gardens facility, but the setting just won't be the same. There was something about sitting in the stands at Nova Southeastern and hearing the "ooooohs" and "ahhhhhs" from fans as they overreacted to practice plays.

Much as the Orange Bowl can never be replicated, the same can be said for the crowds at Nova.

The Thrill of Not Knowing If Practice Would be Canceled

Before there were up-to-the-minute weather reports in our pockets, there was driving all the way to Davie to find out practice was canceled. Really, that game of will-they-or-won't-they never ended. Because in South Florida, rain is a given in the summer and can pop up with no notice. I've personally planned entire days around a Dolphins practice, only to get there and leave because it was canceled. No money back, because you didn't pay. Just sadness, man.

Eating Laspadas in the Car

Everyone knows a trip to Dolphins training camp was never truly complete unless you had a full belly of Laspadas before or afterward. You can do it without, but it's not the total experience. One of the first things new players were told when they came to Miami was that they needed to know about Laspadas and how close it was to the practice facility.

We can still eat Laspadas before or after Dolphins' practices, but it won't be the same as it was when it was steps away from the fields.

The Parking Situation

There was a time when attending Miami Dolphins training camp was hazardous to your health. You had to dart across traffic like Frogger. And to even get to that point, you had to fight for a parking space. It got to where it was better to arrive three hours before practice than it was to fight for a spot later on.

Thankfully, over the years the parking situation improved. Unlike the team.

The College Students

One of the funnier aspects of the Dolphins using a college campus as their training facility was the fact that not every college student knew it was happening right under their nose. For many college kids, Dolphins training camp was an inconvenience, something that messed up their parking ritual.

Training camp won't feel the same if you can't glance over and see flustered dental students in white coats on their way to class.

Broward County

For Dolphins fans who don't live in Miami-Dade, the annual chance to see their favorite football team in action close to home was a huge treat. Miami always gets everything. Dolphins training camp was theirs.

It only felt right for the Dolphins to make an appearance every summer in Broward. It was a sort of reward for all the long drives so many in Palm Beach and Broward make each Sunday. The sad reality is parents won't take their kids to as many practices now, because it requires highways and Miami traffic.

The Sightlines

One thing about the Nova training facility is that it made you feel like you could not possibly be any closer to the action short of stepping onto the field. Not only could you see the players up close, but also the random stars who'd show up to watch from the sidelines. You might see Dwayne Johnson or Jay-Z randomly standing there, talking to the coaches. It was a movie within a movie.

However the experience at the new facility shakes out for fans, it will have big shoes to fill. It may be nicer. It may be bigger. It may be more comfortable.

But it will never be Davie.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi