No firm date has been set, but sometime around mid-May, the Marlins are expecting to announce the naming rights for their new ballpark.
Team president David Samson had hoped to have the sponsor for the building around Opening Day, but finding a partner is taking a little bit longer than anticipated.
The short delay is due to a couple of reasons, one of them being the Marlins are looking at a more involved relationship with the company than just placing its name atop the 37,000-seat retractable-roof stadium.
The team hopes to integrate the naming partner into the Marlins' brand.
"It makes it a little more complicated, because we want to make sure we have a partner who understands and shares the vision that we have, and we share the vision of what they have and what they want to do," Samson said.
But to make it all the more special when the stadium is finally ready for baseball games. The Marlins plan to limit attendance during the exhibition season.
Only the Marlins front office could come up with this plan.
More than likely, the first baseball game played in the building will be by college teams.
"We'll maybe have some college baseball games, and then some exhibitions games between the Marlins and some local college teams," Samson said. "We're talking soft openings."
From the outset, crowds will be eased into the ballpark. For instance, the first college game would be open to about 5,000 people.
"Not because that's all we can draw, but that's all we want for the first game," Samson said. "Then we'll do a [Marlins] game against a college team and we'll allow, say, 15,000 into the park, and we'll see how that works."
Nothing wrong with the stadium hosting college baseball at the start. If I remember correctly, that is what the Astros did with Minute Maid Park. In fact, they put together a really nice tournament of local college baseball teams which continues to this day. The inaugural tourney had Rice, Houston, Texas and Texas A&M playing a round robin tournament. The event was pretty well attended. Some just wanting to see the park at reduced rates, and some just wanting to see good college baseball and the new ballpark was a bonus.
But leave it to the Marlins front office to restrict attendance. Read: if we don't, we will have to pay all of the parking lot attendants, open all the concession stands, not to mention have the vendors roaming the stadium. That cost money!
To keep the theme going Samson would have the Marlins restrict attendance to the final exhibition games against MLB clubs.
Progressing from there, there is a strong likelihood the Marlins would play an exhibition game or two against an MLB team before the regular season gets under way.
"We'll maybe allow 30,000 people, and it would all lead up to Opening Day," Samson said.
Since there won't be close to a full test run before the MLB exhibition games, might as well do a partial one then. 'Cause trust me, everything won't run smoothly the first time a full crowd fills the stadium.
One of the worst things that can happen is that it is all chaos on opening day. Most fans would, maybe, understand but if history is any indicator, that may end up being the biggest crowd of the season. And pissing some of them off is not the way to start a new era.
Personally, I would have the full staff working from the start and open the doors to all. Yeah, the crowds may not justify it, but it gives more time to iron out any problems.
Then again, what do I know. Maybe the measured approach is the way to go. But it doesn't sound like to me they have enough games scheduled to do it slowly.