Since the 1920s, sporting events and institutions have both mirrored and shaped the growth of South Florida. Miami Jai-Alai and Hialeah Park two of the area’s earliest sporting attractions, lured northern tourists with, respectively, the spectacles of jai alai, an ancient Basque game imported from Cuba, and horse racing. Along with the annual collegiate Orange Bowl Game, these quickly became world-famous draws and by the mid-century were helping fuel the public fascination with South Florida as a locus of sun, fun, and leisure. It was an image that eventually would draw not only visitors, but transplants to the region.
By the early 1960s, Miami-Dade’s population topped one million, including thousands of new arrivals from Cuba. One of these, a young architect, designed a venue for the distinctly South Florida sport of powerboat racing that captured the optimism and exuberance of the era: Miami Marine Stadium. At the same time, across the bay on Miami Beach, the Fifth Street Gym emerged, in the words of one observer, as “an island of democracy” amid the realties of Jim Crow segregation. It also made South Florida an epicenter of boxing.
Professional sports franchises—and the rise of one very prominent college football team—followed in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, cementing South Florida’s sporting legacy and acknowledging its status as a modern metropolis.
Beyond the Game: Sports and the Evolution of South Florida will take you on this journey at HistoryMiami Museum.