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Dolphins' home renamed Land Shark Stadium in deal with singer Buffett

MIAMI -- Jimmy Buffett stood on a stage at the Miami Dolphins' newly renamed stadium and looked out upon his audience, which was a colorful sea of tropical shirts and team jerseys.

Buffett fans -- known as Parrotheads -- and Dolphins fans were there to hear a few tunes as the singer and the NFL team began a partnership designed to attract more people to games.

"This is very interesting," Buffett told the crowd of about 500. "We gave half the tickets to Parrothead clubs and half the tickets to Dolfans, and you can't tell the difference."

Buffett and an eight-piece band played three tunes at the private concert, including a new Dolphins song he wrote to the melody of his hit "Fins." Buffett and team owner Stephen Ross then unveiled a logo for Land Shark Stadium, the new name of the Dolphins' home. The University of Miami football team and Major League Baseball's Florida Marlins also play there.

Buffett's Margaritaville enterprise includes LandShark Lager, brewed by Anheuser-Busch. Ross said the agreement to change the name from Dolphin Stadium is for this season only and expires before the stadium plays host to the Super Bowl in February.

"We're going to be associated with Jimmy Buffett forever," Ross said. "That's what the important thing is."

Ross has invited Buffett to become a minority owner and said he doesn't know whether that will happen. Regardless, the singer will play a role in rebranding the franchise. A Margaritaville area will be created at the stadium, with a goal of bringing Buffett's "unique culture" to games, Ross said.

"He's going to be featured at tailgates and things like that," Ross said. "We're going to incorporate him into being part of the Miami Dolphins.

"Football today, with HDTV, you can sit at home. You've got to create an experience and a reason to come here and have a good time. It's a blend of entertainment and winning football. We're going to fill up those stands."

Buffett declined interview requests but released a statement about his role with the team.

"What a cool thing to be doing, and especially at home in South Florida," he said. "I am honored and look forward to working (not that hard) with the Dolphin organization. I just want to thank Steve for having the idea to think a little out of the box and including us in his vision of more fun for the fans. All I can add is, let the Fin begin!"

Ross, a New York real estate billionaire, completed his purchase of the Dolphins in January. Seeking ways to improve the fan experience, he approached Buffett, who is closely identified with the Florida Keys and has been a Dolphins fans since at least 1984, their most recent Super Bowl season.

Buffett watched games from the sideline back then and once invited several players on stage at a concert.

For the christening of Land Shark Stadium, the audience included Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland. Also on hand were at least half a dozen former players, former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning and former U.S. Tennis Association CEO Arlen Kantarian, an adviser to Ross.

Buffett took the stage in shorts and a polo shirt and opened with "Margaritaville," changing a line in the first verse to "all of you Dolfans covered with oil."

The roar when he finished rivaled a touchdown celebration.

"As somebody who drove to the Keys in a '46 Packard about 38 years ago, this is pretty cool," Buffett said with a lopsided grin.

His finale was the new team song, which he called "Fins for Dolfans."

"We got fins to the left, fins to the right," he sang. "It's the only game in town."

Ross said the Dolphins will keep their fight song, which dates from the team's days in the American Football League. But he clearly preferred the new tune.

"Believe me," Ross said, "you'll hear that more than once or twice when you're at a Dolphin game."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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