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SunLife Stadium / Florida Marlins

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LandShark Stadium is a great place to catch a football game, but so far unsuccessful in sustaining any kind of fan base for baseball. This will be the final season there for the Florida Marlins.

FAST FACTS

Year Opened: 1987
Capacity: 47,622
Architect: HOK Sport+Venue+Event
Dimensions: 330L, 385LC, 434LC, 404C, 385RC, 345R
Playing Surface: Grass
Website: floridamarlins.com
Phone: 305/623-6100
League: National League
Parking: SunLife Stadium sits on the county line between Dade and Broward County. There is an abundance of parking for Marlins games, considering the surrounding lots are equipped for nearly 70,000 Dolphins fans.
Directions: Take I-95 to Ives Dairy Road. Make a right turn and proceed west for five miles. The stadium will be on the right. Take the Florida Turnpike south to Exit 2X, which is the NW 199th and stadium exit. Upon exiting the turnpike, the stadium is immediately on the right. University Drive south becomes NW 27th Avenue in Dade County, to Dan Marino Blvd. Make a left and the stadium is on the left.
Written by: Dewayne Hankins

Every spring for the last century fans have flocked to Florida to catch a preview of what their team will look like for the upcoming season. The aura that is Spring Training in the sunshine state is something unmatched by any other professional sport's preseason. And so in 1993 some thought it would be a great idea to extend baseball past those final days of March and introduce Floridians to a full season of Major League Baseball. Yet here we are years later still trying to figure out if it's going to work in either Tampa Bay or Miami.

Tampa Bay plays in a strange indoor park where balls bounce off catwalks. Head south and you'll find the Florida Marlins, who have won two World Series and can boast an already impressive alumni of superstar players in their 14-year history.

What's holding back the Marlins, of course, is SunLife Stadium, a great place to catch a football game but so far unsuccessful in sustaining any kind of fan base for baseball. In fact, three separate ownership groups have tried and failed miserably to build their own baseball-only facility.

You see, the problem with SunLife Stadium is that you are constantly reminded that you are at the Dolphins' stadium. From the retired numbers of former Dolphins players inscribed on the upper deck bowl to the endless sea of orange seats, you are constantly reminded that this football stadium has been turned into a "temporary" place for baseball.

Ballparks are places that you fall in love with for all of their different and unique reasons, but if you never believe that you are, in fact, in a ballpark, than how can you ever sell yourself on the whole experience?

"Miguel Cabrera hits a drive! Way back! And it's off the Dan Marino plaque in left field. Home run!"

See what I mean?

As a natural football complex, SunLife Stadium comes with all the quarks involved in trying to fit the luxuries of a modern ballpark into a football-first facility. The outfield dimensions have power allies where home runs go to die. Then there's the stadium's trademark Bermuda triangle in left-center field, which juts out to 434 feet. Incidentally, quite a few inside-the-park-homers have been hit in SunLife Stadium (Clint Barmes of the Colorado Rockies hit one during our visit).

The football seats fold back in left field to create what used to be called the "teal monster" (the name has mysteriously disappeared ever since the Marlins took teal out of their color scheme). The left field scoreboard extends 26.5 feet high and is the only other trademark of the stadium.

Intimacy is not you'll get when you go see a baseball game at SunLife Stadium. The facility seats roughly 65,000 for baseball, so when the Marlins announce a sellout (which is 36,331 officially), the sea of orange seats in the upper deck is still very apparent. Most of the seats aren't very close to the action, and the only intimate baseball-designed seating are the high-priced tickets behind home plate referred to as the Founder's Field. Those will cost you up to $95 a game.

The seating configuration is also set up for football, so you usually have to sit at a funny angle to get a good view of the game -- especially when you have seats near the foul pole. The Marlins try to make up for their expansive seating selection and interesting arrangements with some of the cheapest tickets in Major League Baseball. The Fish Tank, located in the outfield, has plenty of seats for $8 apiece. You get a great view of the game for the price.

We went for a 1:05 p.m. game and there's no doubt about it, it's hot. The endurance required for staying a full nine innings is something one must fully prepare for. When the Marlins discuss the necessity for a retractable roof at a potential new stadium, it's those day games that make you realize it's just as much for the sun as it is for the daily showers.

CONCESSIONS
Dolphin Stadium has your standard ballpark fare plus a few regional touches, such as Cuban food. Water, a definite necessity at a Marlins game is rather high-priced (as is everything on the menu). and you aren't allowed to bring any in the gates with you. My advice: drink plenty of fluids before you get to the stadium, especially if you plan on trying to sit through a matinee game.

FOR THE KIDS
In the past few years the Marlins have added an assortment of activities for kids to do on the concourses to try and restore what was a dead fan base. There are areas for kids to learn fundamentals, play games and even bounce around and burn off energy. There's also a big list of things to check out during a rain delay, which happens rather often as you might imagine.

Ballpark History
Dolphin Stadium was built for $115 million and finished in time for the 1987 NFL season. The stadium hosted it's first exhibition baseball game on March 11, 1988 when the Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles played to a sold out Joe Robbie Stadium. On April 5, 1993 the Marlins played their inaugural game at what was then called Pro Player Stadium. Before the 2005 season, the stadium was renamed Dolphins Stadium to announce to everyone that baseball is no longer welcome here (weeks earlier the Dolphins had announced they would be kicking the Marlins out after the 2010 season; they have since changed their minds).

BEFORE/AFTER THE GAME
Your best bet before the game is to bring a grill and cooler to tailgate in the expansive parking lot. There is nothing of interest within walking distance of the stadium to do before or after the game. Another example of why it's a great facility for football and one that doesn't work so well for baseball.