A Few Observations on Marlins Park

Posted by Kurt Smith on Friday, April 6, 2012

Last  night I watched (on television, I haven’t been there yet) the home opener for the Miami Marlins in their brand spanking new Marlins Park; the building of which being the reason for the team’s name change from “Florida” to “Miami”. I’m for that, anyway. I don’t like teams being named after states unless there’s a somewhat fair reason for it, as there is with the Twins and Rangers. It should be the Phoenix Diamondbacks, the Boston Patriots,  and the Newark Devils.

But I digress. The St. Louis Cardinals, behind a stellar pitching performance from Kyle Lohse, took down the Marlins on their big day 4-1. The first Marlins hit in their new ballpark didn’t come until the seventh inning, when former Met Jose Reyes cranked a low ground ball single to right field.

The first thing that struck me about Marlins Park is that bright lime green fence. That’s something I’ve never seen in a ballpark before of course, and I wondered how baseball fans would take to it. I didn’t mind it…I thought it looked kind of cool, even…but it certainly isn’t something that’s intended to pay homage to baseball’s past.

Another thing I do like is the small amount of seats: 38,000. That’s a Fenway Park-sized ballpark—with a roof on top of it. When you sit inside Miller Park it’s hard to believe that there’s only 42,000 seats, because the roof makes the place look so massive. So I expect that is even more pronounced at Marlins Park.

A small amount of seats is a good thing. Either the team will fill up the place every night, or there at least won’t be swaths of empty seats like there are at NASCAR races these days. It should mean that every seat will be a good one, too, although that’s not the case at Miller Park.

As far as the retractable roof dome, I’ve been to three such ballparks, and I can say that I’d prefer an open air ballpark, whatever weather issues may come with it. We have really hot days and really cold days and heavy rains in Philadelphia too. I don’t like indoor baseball, and when you’re at a game at Rogers Centre or Miller Park, it still feels somewhat indoors even with the roof open.

But indoor baseball is better than no baseball at all because of a rainout, and it is kind of nice to not have to bring a rain poncho or a heavy coat, and to know that the game will be played, which is of indeterminate value to a road tripper. And I don’t live in the humidity of South Florida. This was cited as a large part of the reason for low attendance at Sun Life Stadium, their former home…and the bright orange seats there probably didn’t help.

Then there’s that home run…um, thing that’s in the outfield. We didn’t get to see it light up and do its thing last night, since no one from the Marlins homered, but I’ve seen it on Youtube and honestly, it’s fairly amusing to watch, even if a purist would probably hate it.

If this was done 20 years ago it would have been talked about to no end, but big home run celebrations aren’t unusual these days—the Big Apple at Citi Field, the Liberty Bell at Citizens Bank Park, or the train at Minute Maid Park come to mind. But I will say, it is definitely unusual. Here’s a video of it (and no, it isn’t a cartoon, I don’t think).

What is obvious, looking at it all, is that the Marlins weren’t going to go retro at all, as owner Jeffrey Loria said. Modern was the key, and these days that’s a risk. I do applaud the Marlins for that, as someone who hated how similar concrete doughnut stadiums used to be. I love the retro ballparks, but retro was modern once, and sometimes you have to appreciate new ideas. I’m not saying I’ll love Marlins Park if I’m lucky enough to visit it, but give them some points for originality.

One thing I’ve read about the place in a couple of reviews is the insufficient public transportation, which really surprised me. I thought that the almost complete lack of trains and buses to get to Sun Life Stadium was one of the reasons for building the place. Very rarely does a new ballpark suffer from ways to get there outside of a car. Some, like Target Field in Minnesota or the new Yankee Stadium, have even had new stations built just for the purpose.

If this is true, the city of Miami really needs to get on it, because they need Marlins Park to be full to recoup the considerable taxpayer investment. It won’t be if people grow tired of the traffic and parking.

Overall the consensus from what I’ve read is that while Marlins Park is miles ahead of Sun Life as a baseball venue (Sun Life wasn’t even a baseball venue to begin with, and the Dolphins sure didn’t seem to appreciate having at least one team with rings playing there), it doesn’t reach the level of a Camden Yards or PNC Park as far as a great ballpark experience. I’ve read reviews from some people that hate the bright colors, and some that aren’t crazy about the home run machine.

Aside from the modern construction in a retro age—something that backfired in a big way with the White Sox when Comiskey II was built—the other, bigger risk of Marlins Park is simply the market. Baseball in Miami thus far has performed dismally, the subpar venue notwithstanding.

Baseball in the Tampa Bay area doesn’t do that great either, and while their venue is also subpar, they’re putting a good team on the field in the league’s toughest division, and their ticket prices are as low as any, so there ought to be some sellouts there once in a while. Throw in Atlanta and how poorly the Braves draw despite their on-field success, and it begins to look like the whole southeast is just a tough market for whatever reason.

We’ll see. But for now, the Marlins have a new ballpark, and I’m looking forward to researching and writing the Marlins Park E-Guide.

In the meantime, since I don’t have any photos of my own, you can check out the Facebook photo gallery from my friend Joe Mock at Baseball Parks…he always beats me to the new ballpark.

Pictures in this post courtesy of Lori Martini.

Tags: marlins park  miami marlins 
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