Over the Memorial Day weekend I was able to travel to Miami to see two games at the brand new Marlins Park (no corporate sponsor yet !). Going in, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect after hearing mixed reviews. Many people seemed to bemoan the fact that it wasn’t a “retro” park and that the color scheme was not fitting for a baseball park. Others complained about the home run sculpture in the outfield and the fish tanks behind home plate. Despite what I read or see beforehand, I always try to go in with an open mind when seeing a new park for the first time.
This trip I took with my college buddy, Mike, who has also seen games at all the current MLB parks. We flew from Newark into West Palm Beach on Friday and saw a minor league game at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter that night. As with most FSL parks, attendance is pitiful – there was just over 500 for this Friday night game.
Saturday morning we drove to Miami for the Giants-Marlins game which was starting at 4:10. After reading numerous stories about the parking issues at the new ballpark, I decided it was best to pre-purchase parking passes when the Marlins put them on sale in April. We were going to get to the park super early, but it is always nice to know where exactly you are going to park ahead of time. As it turns out, the lack of parking around the new park seemed to be overblown. After thinking about this some more, I wondered why there was so much concern. Prior to Marlins Park being built, the Orange Bowl stood on the same site. It held twice as many fans and apparently there was never any concerns about parking then. So why the concern at Marlins Park ? Anyhow, when I purchased the parking passes, I decided on a surface lot (W3) rather than one of the brand new parking garages that had been built. If I have my choice, I would always rather park in a surface lot as they tend to be much easier to get out of after the game. After navigating a couple side streets, we found the entrance to our surface lot. About two hours before the game, we were one of only about 20 cars in this lot. As it turns out, you didn’t need to pre-purchase a parking pass as anyone could parking in this lot for $20 (the advance price was $15).
After arriving at the park, we took our customary loop around the exterior. As we were approaching the park, we could see that the roof was on, but that was fine with us as the 90+ degree weather was enough to bear while just walking around. I’m not a fan of domed ballparks, but I do think they have their place in some climates – Miami is definitely one of them (as is Houston). From the exterior, Marlins Park looks more like an ugly football stadium or a spaceship rather than a baseball park. The main entrance seems to be on the west side (home plate/first base) as there is a huge plaza, which is actually covered when the roof is open. But I actually found the third base entrance to be more interesting as this is where you will find a bunch of letters seemingly strewn about randomly. If I had not read beforehand, I probably would not have not known the meaning : all the letters spell out “Miami Orange Bowl”, the name of the stadium that sat on this same plot of land.
The gates at Marlins Park only open 1 hour and 40 minutes before game time, so on this day that meant a 2:30 opening. At MLB parks, I like to see teams open the gates 2 hours prior, but since I was seeing two games here, I didn’t mind as much. As you enter through the turnstiles, you must immediately take an escalator up to the main concourse – there is nothing to see on the ground level of the ballpark. If you have entered through the home plate entrance, upon arriving on the concourse the first thing you will see is the Bobblehead Museum. Not really a museum, but rather just a large case, it is pretty impressive nonetheless. There are about 700 bobbleheads currently on display, with several included from every MLB team. The National League ones are on one side and the American League ones on the other side, all organized by team. The case actually shakes slightly so the heads are constantly in motion. To be honest, I have no idea why they decided to include this, but is is pretty cool !
The main concourse is decorated in different colors as you walk around the park – there are sections in red, green, yellow, and blue. This is one feature of Marlins Park that gives it a distinctly Miami feel. I have seem some people who think that the concourses should have more neon and be louder, but I believe they did a good job without going too crazy. The main concourse seems wider than those in other new parks. Even with a large crowd, it seemed relatively easy to navigate. As can be expected at a new park, the concessions are well varied and expensive. Besides the normal ballpark fare, other food options include Cuban sandwiches, empanadas, fish tacos, Brother Jimmy’s BBQ sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches, Sir Pizza, and burgers. I tried the garlic parmesan fries and the Buffalo and Blue chicken sandwich. Both were quite tasty ! Prices here actually seemed a bit high – the cheapest hot dog is $6, bottle water is $4, and most of the sandwiches are $9-$12. But in my experience, most fans could care less about the cost of concessions. They come with a wad of money and just keep spending until its gone.
When you first look out at the field, the first thing that really jumps out at you in the lime green walls. In most places I would probably not like them, but in Miami they just seem to fit right in. Yes, they are definitely bright, but that might be a good thing in this inaugural season as the team seems to be having a hard time keeping the grass a nice green color. Besides the lime green walls, the home run sculpture in left-center field is also quite noticeable. But I actually don’t think it dominates the view as much as it would appear from watching a game on TV. I was also pleasantly surprised by the city skyline view through the windows in left field. While you can’t see the skyline from every seat in the ballpark, where you can, the view is pretty spectacular. Photos of this view don’t do it justice – you need to see it in person.
Before taking our seats, we roamed around the first level, including checking out the “home run porch” seats in right field. While I probably wouldn’t want to sit there, they do provide a good view of the field and I appreciate the steepness of the seats. Nowhere else in the park are the seats this steep, so if you want to ensure that the person in front of you doesn’t block your view, then sit here. Our seats for Saturday’s game were in section 8, which is behind the visitor dugout. This meant we were surrounded by mostly Giant fans. The legroom in these seats is rather generous, but the slope could be steeper. Unless you have a child sitting in front of you (or nobody at all) , you will probably need to constantly move your head to see the action. Ushers on the first level will let you roam wherever before the game starts, but after that they will request to see a ticket every time you go back to your seat. I do appreciate that the ushers force fans to wait until after an at bat to go back down to their seats. There aren’t many parks which do this.
For the Sunday game, we sat in the upper deck behind home plate. While these seats seem very high when you look at them from the field level, they actually don’t feel that high when you sitting in them. We were in the third row, which gave us an almost unobstructed view of the field. Behind home plate was blocked out slightly by the rail at the front of the upper deck. Going up to row 5 or higher should negate this view of the railing. The concourses in the upper deck are quite similar to those in the lower deck as they have different color themes going on and offer many (but not all) of the same food options. Unfortunately, it is not possible to enter the club level without a ticket, so was not able to check that out at all.
Both games were rather uneventful – the Giants and Marlins split the two games. While no Marlins hit any home runs, the outfield sculpture does light up at the end of a Marlins win. So at least I get to say that I saw it in action. Also, be sure to stay after the final pitch as they always open the roof immediately. It is quite an impressive site to see the roof being opened and definitely gives the park a different feel. With the summer heat already in full force, it is doubtful that the Marlins are going to be playing any more games this season with the roof open.
Upon heading back to the parking lot after the games both days, we noticed that it was nowhere near being full. Even though we stayed about 20 minutes after the game was over, by the time we returned to the lot, we were one of just 50 or so cars still left. Clearly they are not selling out the parking as was originally expected. So either more people are taking public transit or there is simply ample parking. Both days we were able to scoot right out of the parking lot and get back onto the highway. I have never experienced such easy egress as at Marlins Park. Not sure if it’s like this every day, but on weekends the access and egress is a cinch !
I ended up liking Marlins Park more than I expected to. Yes, there are areas that could be improved on – more Marlins history should be on display and some counters tables along the concourse would be nice, but overall I found little to complain about and a lot to like. It probably will not crack my top 10 of current MLB ballparks, but is better than many of the new parks which have been built in recent years.
My full review and photos are also now available on my site here.