“I was on the wrong side of it a number of times both professionally and as a kid growing up,” Dave Shula said with a smile Thursday after helping unveil the new larger-than-life mural of his father outside the 72 Club at Hard Rock Stadium. “The artist did a magnificent job.
“They caught him with a look that anybody that worked with him or played for him will recognize, and any fans that saw sideline shots of him in tense moments. It’s a great image of him. It’s a serious, stern look. It’s him.”
The impressive portrait of the legendary former Miami Dolphins coach is one of 19 murals being created at the stadium — about a dozen were completed ahead of Sunday’s home opener against the Cleveland Browns — in the style of the Wynwood Walls street art museum. The project was inspired by a visit Dolphins owner Steve Ross made to the artsy Wynwood neighborhood in Miami.
“The idea is to bring art and culture into an environment that typically didn’t have art and culture,” said Jessica Goldman Srebnick, CEO of project curator Goldman Global Arts.
Hence the hashtag: #artunexpected.
“The idea was that we put it everywhere so no matter what seat you are sitting in you have access to art,” Goldman Srebnick continued. “Art is timeless. It changes your perspective. It makes you feel good.”
It’s among the final touches for the renovated and renamed stadium, which has also added a canopy roof, giant video boards and other amenities, which include new food and beverage options. The newest are Grown — which was founded by former Miami Heat star Ray Allen and his wife and becomes the first fully organic restaurant to operate in a U.S. sports venue — and five Shula Burger outlets scattered around the stadium.
As for the Shula mural, Portuguese artist Vhils brought the famous face to life by chiseling pieces out of a brick and stone wall with a jack hammer.
“It’s just a wonderful honor. I think it’s fitting that his portrait is chiseled in concrete. He’ll enjoy that fact,” Dave Shula said.
The murals, as wide as 125 feet, are the work of 18 artists from 10 countries. Most reflect the vibrant, colorful graffiti-style that has revitalized neglected urban areas such as Wynwood. By the time they are finished they will cover 29,000 square feet of wall space, thanks to 3,000 cans of paint.
While the Shula mural is the signature piece, most of them have nothing to do with sports.
The other football-themed piece, titled “All the Way,” depicts a player inside a gold helmet with multi-colored hands against a backdrop of clouds and stars. Eyes as intent as Shula’s are focused on a colorful football.
Dasic Fernandez, a street artist from Chile, created it to show the pursuit of a dream through hard work.
More abstract is the colorful mural by Miami native Jen Stark, which is a massive dripping tie-dye design appropriately titled “Drip Down.”
“It’s kind of playing off the football word touchdown,” Stark said. “A lot of my work has some psychedelic imagery in it. This seemed like the artwork was dripping down and taking over the place.”
Don Shula is in California and won’t see his mural until he attends a game next month. But Dave Shula has been telling him about the transformation of the stadium where the elder Shula became the NFL’s winningest coach. Dolphins president and CEO Tom Garfinkel has been referring to it as a global entertainment venue.
“I’m seeing a stadium in ways that I never dreamed, paying attention to art and concessions,” Dave Shula said. “It’s becoming more about entertainment. You have to take that into consideration for the fans and the guest experience.”
Dave Shula, a former football coach who now oversees the family restaurant empire, said the change is eye-opening for anyone with an old-school football background.
“You have to take your football hat off and put your business hat on,” he said. “Having made the transition over to the business world for the last 20 years I can see a much bigger picture than [Dolphins coach] Adam Gase sees right now. Or I saw or my dad saw. All we thought about [while coaching] was what’s the field conditions, the locker room and the press box, and can the bus get in and out. I’m sure that’s how Adam Gase thinks now.”
Certainly Dolphins fans hope that is Gase’s focus while they enjoy the comforts added to the stadium during the two-year, $500 million renovation. Among them, tap rooms featuring 52 craft beers, including 16 local brews.
The shade canopy, which was still unfinished when the Dolphins played the final preseason exhibition, is now complete with the addition of the opaque inner panels around the opening. That process wasn’t done when rain leaked through some of the panels during a recent Miami Hurricanes game, creating considerable chatter on social media.
“We may still have a couple places we need to go in and patch up, but I would expect it to be 99.9 percent dry on Sunday with regard to the roof being complete,” Garfinkel said.
“Now, there’s rain going to come through the big hole in the middle, depending on the wind. It’s designed as a shade canopy, not a full roof that’s going to keep everybody completely dry. But we won’t have leaks from the roof.”
Garfinkel said season-ticket sales are running ahead of last season. He acknowledged the club has heard from fans upset that some Dolphins players have protested by kneeling during the national anthem the past two weeks, but he said he doesn’t expect that to keep the team from selling out every home game.