NFL Stadium Guide: Miami Dolphins

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The Miami Dolphins 2012 season is about to get underway and for fans like me that means getting ready for some home field football at Sun Life Stadium. When looking over the Dolphins 2012 season schedule, they play eight home games with their first coming on September 16 against the Oakland Raiders.

The stadium is beautiful, but also very large and for first-timers it can be quite intimidating. While there are a number of places to look online and offline for information, I have taken the best pieces of information, along with some firsthand knowledge, and weaved together a stadium guide for all Dolfans to use and enjoy.

Venue: Sun Life Stadium is located at 347 Don Shula Drive, Miami Gardens, FL 33056 . Built in 1987, the stadium was first called Joe Robbie Stadium after the man who helped find the funding necessary to build the gorgeous South Florida venue. Since its humble beginnings, the stadium has gone by several different names over the years including Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium and Land Shark Stadium.

Seating: Sun Life Stadium has a capacity of 75,540. Of course, the best seats in the house are front and center on the 50-yard line. However, for those who wish to stay out of the heat and the frequent South Florida rain showers, there are a number of suites available that make watching a Dolphins game a true luxury.

Seating Charts: Because 50-yard line tickets and suites do not come cheap, I highly recommend using an interactive seating chart to find the perfect place to sit. The Dolphins have one that is not only interactive, but also in 3D, which offers you a firsthand look of how your viewing experience will be when you are watching the game

Ticket Prices: Tickets will vary greatly depending on where your seats are located. The best thing to do is use the 3D chart to find where you would like to sit and then call 1-888-FINS-TIX to inquire about ticket prices. Keep in mind that most Dolphins home games sell out and the best seats often go first. So the quicker you plan the better your chance will be at getting the seats you want.

Parking/Tailgating: Gates open four hours before the start of each home game and they close two hours after the conclusion of the game. Tailgating is permitted and I highly recommend it. Be sure to follow all the rules and regulations associated with tailgating as those in violation will be ejected from the stadium parking lot and not be allowed back in.

Here's a bit of advice when parking. Make sure you either write down the section where you parked or take a picture of the section with your camera phone. It's easy to get turned around while inside the stadium and I've personally come out on the wrong side before and had to walk for over a half hour before I finally found my car.

Parking Costs: Parking fees for Sun Life Stadium are as follows: $25 per car, truck or SUV and $80 per bus, limousine or RV.

On the Way In: On your way in to the stadium you can expect to be searched. The security staff takes their job seriously and there is typically a line for men and a line for women. Hats are often asked to be removed and all purses are subject to search. Be sure each person in your party has their ticket on them before you enter these lines.

Prohibited Items: In order to get through the lines quickly as possible there is a list of items that you should avoid bringing in with you. This includes food, beverages, bags exceeding 14X14X8 inches in size, strollers if you're in a suite, coolers and umbrellas.

While Inside: While you are in the stadium there are plenty of places to get food, beverages and souvenirs. Most concession stands take cash or credit/debit cards and food and drink prices will vary depending on what you order. It should be noted that all beer sales cease at the end of the third quarter of play.

You are also expected to respect others while inside, even if they are rooting for the other side. This means no foul language, no fighting and so on. Basically, treat others like you want to be treated. Should you get too out of hand, you will be escorted out of the stadium and not be allowed back inside. If you run into trouble with another fan, don't take matters into your own hands, simply text 41513 and then type FAN followed by what is going on. Help will then be on the way.

Personal Tips: I've been to countless Miami Dolphins home games and therefore have a couple personal tips to share. The first one is to bring a poncho for everyone in your party. They are inexpensive and can be quickly thrown on when the rain comes down. Also, be sure to have any cameras or binoculars you wish to bring inside in their case, otherwise they won't let you bring them in.

Most importantly though, remember that everyone is there to enjoy a game of football. While it is okay to be a passionate Dolfan, being an unruly one will only see you get kicked out of Sun Life Stadium. Just use your common sense and some common courtesy, along with this guide, and a fun time watching the Miami Dolphins play at Sun Life Stadium is all but guaranteed.

Jimmy Collins has been a loyal "Dolfan" and fan of the NFL since he was six years old when he met Dan Marino and several other Miami Dolphins players. Still a resident of South Florida, he attends numerous Miami Dolphins games each season and enjoys writing about the NFL and the Miami Dolphins in particular.

More from this contributor:

Tailgating Rules and Guide for the Miami Dolphins in 2012

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This Miami Dolphins Fan Wants to See the Team Beat Tim Tebow Twice in 2012

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