After a series of high-school, college and pro exhibitions, Marlins Ballpark is set to open tonight as the new home of the Miami Marlins. Here’s a roundup of early reactions to the facility.
The first pitch is scheduled for tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald says the new ballpark represents a new era for the former Florida Marlins:
Summer spent baking and sweating in a huge stadium built for football will now be replaced by a climate-controlled, baseball-only facility with all new amenities, from artwork in the main concourse to a South Beach restaurant and bar — the Clevelander — on the other side of the fence in left.
“Love it,” said Mark Hopkins, a season-ticket holder for the past 10 years. “You can’t help but be excited. I like Ozzie. I like the new ballpark. I like everything they’ve done so far, and I’m cynical. It’s Miami.”
That’s especially true of the ballpark’s tropical feel and cool features, particularly the 73-foot high centerpiece in center field: the home run sculpture. The colorful mechanism will go into action during Wednesday’s pre-game ceremonies, then wait for someone on the Marlins to hit one out before going into motion again.
The positives about the new ballpark include: beautiful new home, a good line of sight for every seat, initimate setting with 37,000 seats, cool temperatures (72 degrees) with a retractable roof and no rain delays, national attention, diverse food choices, a wild gizmo in the outfield that will add plenty of pizzazz to every Giancarlo Stanton or other Miami Marlins home run, two saltwater fish aquariums (don’t ask), enough revenue streams to put a competitive team on the field.
Considering all that, it’s clear that Marlins Park has all the makings of a winner.
The opening of the ballpark may overshadow the game, but the Marlins acknowledge that the novelty will wear off quickly. It will take a winning team to keep fans coming to Marlins Park.
Guilllen said he is stressing to the players to avoid the hoopla and focus on that objective.
“I don’t want people to come here and say, ‘Let’s watch the ballpark.’ This is a baseball field, and I want people to treat this field that way. If they don’t want to do that, they should go to Miami Beach or some place. I want people to see a good baseball game,” Guillen said, adding that the ballpark “is not a mall.”
The art world where Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria made his fortunes and the ballclub he bought with them collide colorfully in left center field.
There at glistening new Marlins Park, rising 71 feet above the wall, is pop artist Red Groom’s home run spectacle, an animatronic art deco carnival that has water spouts, spinning fish and preening flamingos. It’s a flamboyant cross between the colors of South Beach and a shooting gallery from Coney Island. Tonight, as Miami hosts the Cardinals for the ballpark’s grand opening, if a Marlin hits a home run it will spin into action for the first time.
“It’s definitely Miami. It’s very colorful. It’s very animated,” said Marlins left fielder Logan Morrison. “I think there’s no need to hold onto your bat and walk down the line when you hit a home run anymore. The stadium will (showboat) it for you. Just sprint around the bases and let that thing do it for you.”
Miami is different. Temperatures average 90 degrees with suffocating humidity during much of the season so folks here prefer a cool, comfortable seat over Elysian field esthetics. When I asked one fan what she liked most about the Marlins’ new stadium, her answer was succinct: “The air conditioning.”
The players appreciate that aspect of Marlins Park as well. “It’s wonderful not to have to come in and change my jersey every three innings,” Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez said. “It’s nice not having to change my jersey and undershirt three times a game and losing fluid and getting tired.”
“Even my underwear feels cool,” Marlins catcher John Buck said after a long day game. “That’s a foreign feeling.”
Marlins Park, which followed the model set in Houston, is the only retractable-roof sports venue in the state and one of fewer than 50 in the world. The roof has three panels — the two lower panels span 530 feet and the upper panel spans 566 feet — that role along rails similar to a train.
To close, the roof slides east. When it’s open, it rests above the West Plaza, which is the size of 3 1/2 football fields and serves as an entertainment area with music and other activities before and after games….
The Marlins plan to meet 3 1/2 hours before first pitch every home game to decide if they will close the roof to help cool the stadium down before possibly reopening shortly before first pitch. Such was the case Monday against the Yankees. But the Marlins expect to close the roof for about 70 of 81 games a season, even when rain is not an imminent threat.
The shrimp burger is made with Florida shrimp. The tomatoes come from Homestead. And because the new Marlins Park is in the heart of Little Havana, three Cuban-American eateries will get their chance at the big leagues in the Taste of Miami food court.
It may be the only ballpark in the country that serves plantain chips with garlic sauce, fresh ceviche and slow roasted Cuban-style pork sandwiches. You can wash it all down with an $8 draft beer. Of course, there will be peanuts and Cracker Jack.
Welcome to Marlins Park, which hosts the New York Yankees in exhibition games Sunday and Monday, but has its official grand opening Wednesday when the Marlins play the St. Louis Cardinals.
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