(Redirected from Marlins Park)
FIRST GAME: April 4, 2012 vs. the St. Louis Cardinals (Cardinals 4, Marlins 1)
- Josh Johnson (L) vs. Kyle Lohse (W), Jason Motte (Sv); HR: none
- First Hit (single): Carlos Beltran
- First Double: Lance Berkman
- First Triple: Anibal Sanchez
- First HR: J.D. Martinez
- First Run: Carlos Beltran
- First RBI: David Freese
- Highest Attendance: 37,446 on March 11, 2017 (2017 World Baseball Classic)
- Left field: 344 feet
- Left-center field: 386 feet
- Center field: 422 feet
- Right-center field: 392 feet
- Right field: 335 feet
LoanDepot Park is the ballpark used by the Miami Marlins beginning in 2012. It was known as Marlins Park for its first 9 seasons, from 2012 to 2020, before the team struck a deal to sell naming rights to a California-based loans provider just before the start of the 2021 season. Located in downtown Miami, FL's "Little Havana" neighborhood, on the site once occupied by the Orange Bowl, it replaced Dolphin Stadium, used by the team since its creation in the expansion of 1993. Because the city of Miami invested a significant amount of public funds in the baseball-only stadium, it insisted that the then Florida Marlins change their name to reflect that of the city. It was thus with a new name and logo that the Marlins began play in their new facility.
The first major league game played at Marlins Park was an exhibition game between the Marlins and the New York Yankees on April 1st. Tickets went on sale on February 18th and sold out within 4 hours. There were also a pair of spring training games played between the Marlins and local college teams put on to test the park's new facilities with limited crowds on hand; the first of these was against the University of Miami on March 6th. The first regular season game was the April 4th Opening Day game against the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, also serving as the National League's official season opener. The Cardinals won that game, 4-1.
Marlins Park cost $634 million to build, three-quarters of which came from public funds. The funding mechanism was in fact so complex that the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation into the issuing of the bonds that were sold to investors, looking for evidence of misleading information that could amount to securities fraud. The ballpark is equipped with a retractable roof, an important feature given how much rain delays were a plague at the Marlins' previous home. However, they have not entirely disappeared at the new facility, as fickle rain showers have been known to fall out of a seemingly blue sky in Miami, and the roof's slow closing mechanism cannot compensate. This has caused embarrassment on some occasions, especially on Opening Day in 2015, when the tarp to cover the infield was stored out of reach of the grounds crew. The incident also revealed that the Marlins, always happy to cut corners, were relying on on-line weather applications for their forecasts, and not on a professional meteorologist.
The ballpark features window panels that can be opened or closed to allow fresh breezes to come in from the outside. Contrary to most parks built in the previous two decades, it makes no attempt at capturing a retro look. Reflective of team owner Jeffrey Loria's background as an art dealer, the park features a number of works of art, including reproductions of paintings by Joan Miro and Roy Lichtenstein done as huge mosaics. There is also a bobblehead museum in one of the concourses. The ballpark also originally featured a pair of large aquariums behind the backstop, but its most visible feature was a huge, garish sculpture in centerfield that Miami Herald columnist Linda Robertson described as follows:
It is so tacky, therefore so Miami. Red Grooms designed it, complete with pink flamingos, a seagull, a sun, ocean waves, and two mechanized marlins that will jump and swim when a Marlins homer is hit.
The sculpture, whose official name is "Homer", got some additional publicity early in the 2017 season when a stray cat was seen in the area, and eventually elected to take a nap in the sculpture while a game was going on. The Marlins announced that to ensure the cat would not be hurt, the mechanism would not be used were one of their players to hit a homer in the game. In 2018, after the purchase of the Marlins by Bruce Sherman and the installation of Derek Jeter as team president, stories began to circulate that the Marlins wanted to get rid of the statue (which officially belongs to the city of Miami) because the top two executives reportedly hated it. This was seen as symbolic of the pair in trying to get rid of anything distinctive associated with the team, starting with the star players that had been traded away in a fire sale earlier that off-season. Stories then emerged that the plan was to move the sculpture outside the stadium, to turn it into public art, and replace it with a party deck. Before the 2021 season, it was the fish tanks that disappeared, abolished by the new regime.
The attempt to find a modern look for the stadium was no accident. As team President David Samson explained:
"We used Miami as an excuse to do things that other cities couldn't get away with. We did that with our uniforms, our logo, with the design of the ballpark … Everywhere you look, it's things that if they were anywhere else, people would say, 'You can't do that.' In Miami, people say, 'Oh, that's Miami.' You have to take advantage where you are."
This bold direction, combined with the new team name and uniform design, was part of an attempt to build a completely different identity for a franchise which had never conquered the hearts of fans in south Florida in spite of its two World Series titles as the "Florida Marlins". However after the Marlins were unsuccessful in fielding a truly competitive team after spending freely before the 2012 season, ownership conducted a fire sale before the 2013 season started, creating a lot of bitterness among the fan and depressing attendance. As mentioned above, another fire sale followed the sale of the team at the end of the 2017 season, further angering the fan base.
First indications were that the ballpark could be a home run haven with the roof open, but more neutral with it closed, which should be the most frequent condition during the summer given south Florida's frequent rainstorms. However, it turned out that homers were hard to come by in all conditions as batted balls traveled poorly, slowed down by Miami's humid and heavy air (given the city's low elevation and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean). The outfield is asymmetrical, with the right foul pole being 9 feet closer to home plate than the left one, but the right field power alley is 6 feet deeper than its counterpart. The fence follows a regular curve in right field, but curls toward home plate left of center field before assuming a regular arc.
In February 2015, Commissioner Rob Manfred awarded the 2017 All-Star Game to Marlins Park; it was the first time the game was hosted by the Marlins. They originally were supposed to host the 2000 All-Star Game at what was then called Pro Player Stadium, but the National League, angered over the Marlins' fire sale following its 1997 World Series win, took the game away from the team and awarded it to the Atlanta Braves. The ballpark also hosted first-round games of the 2017 World Baseball Classic; the March 11th game between the Dominican Republic national team and Team USA set an attendance record at the ballpark, with 37,446 paying customers.
On June 2, 2017, the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto hit a foul ball off the supposedly shatter-proof glass housing the fish tanks behind home plate, that caused a crack, and soon water was leaking out of the tank. The leak was quickly fixed and the fish were unhurt in what was the only significant incident involving this feature during its lifespan.
Following the sale of the Marlins by Loria to a group headed by Sherman and Jeter before the 2018 season, the new management made a number of public relations mistakes while fielding a very poor team. The result was a franchise-low attendance at 811,104, or an average of 10,014, making them the first team since the 2004 Montreal Expos to draw fewer than a million fans. The difference was of course that the Expos had played in a dilapidated ballpark, were deliberately run on a shoe-string budget by MLB, were deprived of a number of home dates by having games moved to Puerto Rico and made no marketing effort to speak of, as MLB was actively looking to relocate the team at the end of the season and needed attendance figures to look as bad as possible in order to justify this. The Marlins in contrast, were officially looking to attract fans to their games - albeit without much success. In December 2019, the Marlins announced that they would be installing artificial turf in the ballpark in time for the 2020 season; they were following the lead of the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks, who had also announced they were installing plastic grass, although it wasn't clear why this was needed in the lush tropical environment that is Miami. They also announced plans to bring in the fences, in order to make the park more hitter-friendly.
After the indignity heaped upon Red Grooms' iconic ballpark sculpture, the Marlins ownership tried to find some redemption from the art community by commissionning Puerto Rican artist Carlitos Skills to create an art installation, this one paying hommage to the Havana Sugar Kings and Miami's large Cuban-American community. The installation, named "Folklore", is located outside the ballpark near the main entrance. It was unveiled in may of 2021 and consists of four shipping containers mounted in a pyramid-like structure 27 feet high and painted in bright colors with motifs that evoke the history of Cuban baseball. Visitors can also step inside the containers for an interactive experience that includes bright neon lights and is perfect for the era of fans posting photographs of themselves in picturesque locations, creating some buzz around a team that badly needs it.
In 2024, the ballpark will host the Caribbean Series, the first time the event will be held in a major league ballpark and only the third time it will be held in the United States (the two previous times were in Miami as well).
- Christina De Nicola: "2024 Caribbean Series coming to loanDepot park", mlb.com, January 29, 2022. 
- Christina De Nicola: "Folklore a 'wow' moment at loanDepot park", mlb.com, February 9, 2022. 
- Mike Dodd: "Marlins see future in modern, artistic park", USA Today, April 3, 2012. 
- Joe Frisaro: "Marlins looking to relocate HR sculpture", mlb.com, September 28, 2018. 
- Chad Osborne: "'I Thought We Had a Roof': Marlins All Wet After Opening Day Rain Delay Gaffe", Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 47, Nr. 1 (spring 2018), pp. 81-84.
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