The Miami Marlins are just days away from debuting their brand new stadium in front of a nationwide audience on ESPN as well as to their very own fans. This Wednesday, April 4, the Marlins will play the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals in their first-ever game at Marlins Park. And while Fish Stripes will be manning the game thread and watching on ESPN (Opening Day tickets are too expensive for this student), countless others will be experiencing the game live.
What is in store for those people? How is the new park? Well, the general public has had a couple of chances to check it out in person, and we did discuss the first game against the University of Miami here. We also did discuss the stadium's possible effects on the play on the field. But what are the sorts of things people will get to enjoy seeing at the new stadium? There have been a few more looks at the park from various sources since then, and I figured we could look at a few more opinions of the park.
This article from Reuters gives a nice overview of what the Marlins will be featuring at the new stadium. A lot of this stuff we already knew about: the fish tanks, the home run sculpture, the pool near the Clevelander area. But it is good to hear how the Marlins are spinning these unique and indeed interesting (if a bit eyesore-ish) concepts are thematically tied to the city of Miami, at least in their minds.
The stadium's signature feature will be its backdrop at home plate. Two 450-gallon salt water aquariums sit on either side and will be stocked with 100 tropical fish.
"When you think of Miami, you think of water, right?" said Claude Delorme, a Marlins executive vice president. "We wanted a unique piece that identifies where we are."
Personally, I think the fish tank is going to be one of the most unique and defining characteristics of the stadium. Provided PETA's objections about the unhealthy environment for the fish are not too founded (and we cannot say one way or another how much of an effect the stadium is going to have on that tank), I am all for having such a standout piece that one cannot find anywhere else in baseball. The only disappointing part about that aspect is that fans outside of the immediate area are not going to get a great look at the tanks, which is a shame considering the things they will get a good look at.
Behind outfield is a home run celebration display few will confuse with being anywhere but South Florida. Team officials call it a "home run sculpture."
Designed by American pop artist Red Grooms, the 72-foot yellow, blue and neon pink structure features seagulls, flamingos, and a pointy-billed teal marlin that will leap every time a home run is hit. It is set next to - what else - palm trees.
The home run celebration will also include a 34-second splash effect and laser show.
"Some people have been critical of it," Delorme joked. "But it adds to the experience of coming out to the ballpark."
I think a good deal of the home run structure will actually depend on how the full display, including music, will turn out. Larry Granillo of Baseball Prospectus put up this hilarious post with various choices in mind for music to accompany the spectacle of the home run structure. Of course, the Star Wars Cantina Band fits perfectly with the monstrosity's motions. Either way, the music that accompanies the motions will serve to make it either watchable / bearable or too tacky and hideous to withstand (though I imagine some people have already reached that limit).
This being Miami, no new ballpark would be complete without a pool.
Yes, a pool.
Marlins Park will be the second major U.S. baseball stadium after Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona, to feature a swimming pool for fans looking to enjoy the game from a different vantage point.
"We wanted to have this party area in left field," Delorme said. "So people would see it on TV and say, you know what, I want to go there."
A pool is an obvious fit for south Florida, though it is less relevant for this stadium because of the propensity of the roof being closed (the Marlins anticipate the roof will only be open 10 to 15 times this season). I doubt that the stadium, when closed, will be hot enough to justify "cooling down" at the pool a la Chase Field in Arizona. But that does not mean that a swimming pool is a bad play, and I think it is also quite fitting of the Marlins.
I found that last bit from Claude Delorme pretty interesting. The Marlins have been trying desperately to make this stadium stand out as uniquely "Miami" and make it seem fun so that those of us watching will want to show up for games. They have done everything they can to make the decorum look spiffy and exciting, the colors bright and flashy, and environment fun. In that regard, they have succeeded in making a beautiful new park that a team like the Marlins deserve.
The Feel Inside the Stadium
By all accounts, the feel of the stadium sounded great on the field. Gaby Sanchez seemed to approve.
"It was like we were playing a night game," Sanchez said. "It felt great. The weather inside was real nice. We weren't sweating. It was just comfortable baseball. I'm sure the fans felt the same way, the whole entire time.
"It was a comfortable environment. We didn't have to come in and change our jersey three times. There was no need for it."
This is definitely going to make the ballpark experience significantly easier on fans and players. Out goes the so-called advantage of being used to the conditions having played in sweltering heat for years, but in comes the comfort of not having to play in sweltering heat for years. For the players, not changing jerseys sounds convenient, but for fans, there is a definite benefit to not having to find makeshift sources of shade and prepare for dehydration when going to a baseball game. With the majority of the team's games occurring in the domed environment, the stadium will likely be kept at a cool 75 degrees, making watching a convenient affair even in summer months. This is most certainly among the biggest benefits of the new park.
For what it is worth, John Buck seems to agree, noting its effect on the home team's stamina as well.
"I don't think people realize the toll it takes on your body. You're literally cramping as you're driving home," said Buck, who played in a career-high 140 games last year in his only season at Sun Life.
When the roof is closed at Marlins Park, the air conditioning will keep the temperature at 75 degrees. That means Marlins Park "won't just be sucking the life out of you,' Buck said.
"You'll stay healthier and it will help your at-bats later in games and hopefully later in the season.'
That sounds about right. Beyond a simple comfort level, it is just harder to play in the heat, and that goes doubly for catchers who wear the most gear on the field and constantly sit closest to the super-heated grass and dirt.
Aside from the basics of baseball stadium concessions, I am really looking forward to the food aspect of the new Marlins Park as well. In this article by John Tanasychuk of the Sun-Sentinel, we get a look at the sorts of foods the Marlins will be serving at the park. It does have my mouth intrigued.
They'll serve more than 100 separate menu items, including classic New England-style lobster rolls, beef tenderloin BLT sandwiches, veggie burgers and grilled mahi mahi tacos. A supervised kosher concession will offer corned beef, pastrami and turkey sandwiches.
Julia Alfonso will sell her famous roasted pork sandwiches, which her family has made out of their Allapatah cafeteria since 1978.
Everyone should be really excited about the presence of Papa Llega y Pon, Don Camaron, and Latin American Grill in the Taste of Miami food court in the stadium. I know when I make my couple of trips to the park later this month, I will be sampling some of the food regardless of the hefty price. Pulled pork sandwiches and Cuban sandwiches are not things I can say "no" to, and bringing that sort of flavor into the new stadium only adds to the Miami culture the park will have.
The prices, as mentioned above, are a bit on the hefty side. Here's a sample menu of some of the foods available.
$7 Papo Llega y Pon roasted pork sandwich
$8 domestic draft beer
$8.50 single patty burger
$9 imported draft beer
$9.50 double patty burger
$10 Latin American Grill Cuban sandwich
$10 8-inch cheese pizza from Sir Pizza
$12 8-inch pepperoni pizza from Sir Pizza
$12 grilled fish tacos
$12 chipotle steak tacos
$12 Key lime chicken tacos
$13 Miami shrimp burger
$14 tenderloin BLT
Those are the obvious high-end items, but the truth is that I am OK with having expensive food at a stadium, as it is not as if food is cheap in other parks either. Aside from your basic hot dogs and peanuts, we are looking at some unique pieces that are representative of the culture in south Florida. I'll pay a little more to get that experience when I am around the park.
For those of you who have already experienced the park to some extent, whether it was a few weeks back against the colleges or last night versus the Yankees, please share us your tales of the park. I personally cannot wait to make the trek in mid-April when the Marlins face the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, as that is when I will be showing up to try to take in the park for the first time. Hopefully everything will be in line by then and I will have a great experience at a stadium built for the Marlins.