Residing in Little Havana, the futuristic, revolutionary Marlins Park looks quite out of place, but once inside the building, a fan would know he is in downtown Miami. That was the way I felt last Monday inside the newest ballpark in Major League Baseball.
Several gate locations surrounding Marlins Park facilitate the entry process for the fans. One of the largest, and busiest gates on Monday was the centerfield gate on the Orange Bowl Plaza, right off NW 14th Ave. Entry was slightly different than other parks I’ve been to, at least at the centerfield gate. Fans enter on the field level and must immediately ascend on a long escalator to the main concourse. The escalator drops off in left field. It was there that I immediately noticed the ushers were checking tickets for every section, so my experience was spoiled momentarily.
The field is visible from every point on the main concourse, which circles the entire park. The concourse is divided into four sections, Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green. Each color corresponds to the closest entry gate: Red is third base, Blue is home plate, Yellow is first base, and Green is centerfield.
The front office brags about the cuisine offered at Marlins Park. Team President David Samson said if he could pick out one meal it would be the steak tacos from Miami Mex, a restaurant in the Yellow quadrant. I did not have any ballpark food myself, so I cannot personally attest to its quality.
A popular attraction in the park is the Bobblehead Museum, a standalone display in the Blue quadrant on the main concourse, which holds nearly 700 bobbleheads according to Marlins.com. The structure moves slightly so that the heads are constantly bobbling. There is also a touch screen computer on which you can search for a player to see if he has a bobblehead in the display.
Inside the home plate backstop, extending from each dugout toward home plate are two, 450-gallon aquaria holding small, tropical fish. The aquaria are lined with panels an inch and a half thick, and reenforced with Lexan, a bulletproof substance. Unfortunately, since they are behind home plate, fans at the ballpark cannot view an aquarium without an expensive ticket. Due to this, the only picture of an aquarium I took was via the jumbotron’s feed, and is not even good enough to post. On the first base side, the aquarium is in front of sections FL4 and FL5, and on the third base side, it is in front of FL7 and FL8. The aquarium idea is great, but personally I think it would attract many more fans if it were a gigantic fish tank in the outfield, in place of the gaudy home run sculpture. It would have been a lot cheaper too.
Of course, the “home run sculpture,” which does not yet have a formal name, sits in left-centerfield and will light up and spew smoke whenever a Marlins player hits a home run. The mechanized marlins will leap out of undulating waves while the seagulls flap their wings. The Fish play a home series against Houston at the end of the week, at which time the feature should see its first action. At a $2 million cost, it better activate a lot this season.
The most practical feature of the park is its retractable roof, which will eliminate rain delays or cancellations and create total comfort for the players and fans. Along with the retractable roof, the glass panels lining the left field concourse retract from the foul pole to centerfield. The Marlins plan to have the roof closed for the summer games, or whenever else the temperature and humidity are up, and whenever rain is in the forecast. For batting practice, the roof should be closed also, and will open right before the game, if scheduled. The roof isn’t just for the fans’ comfort, though. Marlins players spoke about stressing over the dreaded summer games in Miami while playing at Sun Life Stadium. Players were also uneasy when rain was in the forecast, as they never knew if the game would actually be played. But there is nothing to worry about now as the new stadium is completely climate controlled.
The state of the art Marlins Park, the newest venue in baseball, is already attracting much attention, and is a focal point of the 2012 baseball season. And it’s nice to have a winning team to go along with a great park. We’ll see if that pans out.