Park rates high among baseball options

BY foxsports • April 5, 2012

This is not your grandfather’s Orange Bowl.

Despite the location and using neighborhood yards as parking lots, an experience reminiscent of when the Dolphins still called this area just north of Little Havana home, Marlins Park has a feel all its own.

With the retractable roof — one of only six in major league ballparks — Marlins Parkyay feels similar to Miller Park, but that’s where the comparison ends. The atmosphere is closer to Olympic Stadium in the 1980s-90s, where the fans found a way to turn their baseball experience into a party whether the Montreal Expos were winning or not.

Certainly, Opening Day has a feeling all its own. There’s generally optimism in the air with a new season. But fans in the region truly seem to have bought into the transformation of the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins complete with a state-of-the-art ballpark and a new skipper in Ozzie Guillen.

“It’s a whole new team — a whole different philosophy,” says Art Zincola, a New Jersey transplant who has lived in Pompano Beach for the last 20 years but bought season tickets for the first time. “I’m a Yankees fan, but the Marlins are my National League team. First and foremost I’m a baseball fan and this is a historic night.”

Mark Hund, 35, has embraced “The Fish” from their opening season in 1993. On Wednesday night, Hund was recognizable in his left field bleacher seat from anywhere in the ballpark — and he wasn’t even sporting his traditional Marlins' Mohawk. For the Marlins Park coming-out party, Hund was clad in a day-glo orange tux — which hides the soon-to-be altered “Florida Marlins” tattoo on his calf. Sure, Hund was easy to spot in the old Sun Life Stadium due to the limited number of fans (the lowest attendance for seven consecutive seasons) that chose to support that facility, which was originally built for football and sits 15 miles due north. But he believes the new complex and location will entice both Marlins and baseball fans alike.

“Some years I’ve had season tickets, others I didn’t,” Hund said. “I’ve known everyone at the old park and could just walk in and no one would say anything. Now we have a real stadium. Things are going to happen.”

Aesthetically, the 928,000 square-foot building, which seats 37,442, has a spaceship quality on the outside but inside, it’s all Miami-inspired. Once on the Promenade level, the colors scream tropics with hot pink, yellow, orange, aqua and royal blue accents throughout. And yes, don’t adjust your TV because the electric green walls surrounding the field are every bit as vibrant as they appear on the screen.

Through “Art in Public Places” the Marlins greet fans at the Home Plate Entrance with a tiled mural from Joan Miro, “Figures Mountains Sky Star & Bird.” Roy Lichtenstein’s “Baseball Manager” graces Section 19. Fans can enjoy “Playball,” Kenny Scharf’s mixed media design by the team store between sections 11 and 12. But it’s a good thing Red Groom’s “Home Run Sculpture” was activated for the crowd during the pregame ceremonies because with a center field line that boasts 418 feet, the monument won’t see much use.

The Bobblehead Museum — which drew crowds throughout the game — holds up to 700 figurines from past to present players, coaches and broadcasters throughout the league.

But the piece de resistance — if you can get close enough to the Diamond Club seats at Field Level behind Home Plate — is two 450-gallon fish tanks complete with 1.5-inch Lexian acrylic glass to protect the creatures from the errant foul balls.

On the Promenade Level, there’s something for every taste imaginable from Latin fare to Kosher along with fresh-sliced sushi and a gluten-free stand. Some tested favorites included the Miami Marlins Shrimp Burger on ciabatta role with aioli sauce ($13), the steak BLT sub with blue cheese ($14) and Brother Jimmy’s BBQ pulled pork sandwich ($10). The portions were plentiful.

At Burger 305, Miami fan Jorge Cruz tried the St. Louis ribs ($12) from the “Specialty Visiting Team’s Menu” and described the meat as “good, but spicy.” Toasted ravioli — another Cardinal fan favorite — was on the list as well as a vegetarian offering.

Mahi tacos, Key Lime chicken and churros can be found at Miami Mex. For Cuban sandwiches and empanadas, Rincon Habana is a must. Kosher Korner offers knishes, Kosher hot dogs, tuna fish and pastrami. And while every menu flashes both English and Spanish translations, we’re still trying to decide whether the “Corn Beef” at Kosher Korner was intended to be corn-fed or corned — and betting on the latter.

Libation lines were long due to the bar being understaffed. There was a 15-minute wait for premium liquor ($12) or an imported beer ($9). The Budweiser Bow Tie Bar in Left Field on the Promenade offers cold beer plus great views of the field — and the city of Miami behind through the operable wall of six 60-foot by 40-foot glass panes which opened along with the roof.

And for those searching for a South Beach experience at the ballpark, look no further than The Clevelander. No, it’s not the same as the 1020 Ocean Drive location, but the swimming pool inside might fool you. Starting at $50 a ticket, the club features a DJ, go-go dancers and body painting. Think of it as a compact version of The Clevelander, but with on-field seating that’s likely to distract the Marlins’ bullpen if the dancers don't. On game nights, the bar will remain open until 3 a.m. for fans looking to extend the evening.

The pregame celebration did not disappoint with the first opening of the three-panel, 19-million-pound steel roof, Muhammad Ali handing off the ball for the first pitch, to Jose Feliciano singing the national anthem propped up with a fly-over.

A different twist on the sausage race popularized in Milwaukee featured an octopus, sea lion and a shark and was won by Angel the stone crab.

After visiting 24 of the current 30 MLB facilities, Marlins Park receives high marks for accessibility: chair-back seats for every fan, abundant big screens, wide screens and restrooms, good menu variety and pricing. The negative from our seats in Section 36 was the obstructive view which limited seeing ball flight in the field. Also, pitchers will love this park considering the distance to the power alleys is 386 feet in left field, 392 feet in right and 418 feet to center. Fans hoping to see home runs at Marlins Park will be disappointed.

Long gone is any memory of the former facility, with the exception of a historical marker on the Promenade and reproduction of the 10-foot high letters that spelled out the "Miami Orange Bowl" distributed around the East Plaza.

For Marlins Fans, it’s a new era in Miami.



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