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Posted at 11:02 AM ET, 04/05/2012

Marlins Park looks great, but can they fill it?

Marlins Park looks great... when it’s full. (Sarah Glenn - Getty Images)
The Miami Marlins christened their sparkling new stadium before a national television audience on Wednesday night.

But Kyle Lohse and the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals spoiled the party with a 4-1 victory before a sellout crowd.

The result led to a number of tongue in cheek tweets questioning whether the unfamiliarity of playing before a capacity crowd rattled the Marlins — who are more accustomed to playing before an ocean of empty orange seats.

The real question, of course, is can the new-look Marlins keep attendance up in their $515 million park?

With a new name, logo and fiery manager and the addition of speedy shortstop Jose Reyes, All-Star closer Heath Bell and veteran starter Mark Buehrle, the Marlins did everything they could this offseason to boost interest in a franchise that has struggled to maintain local support.

Will these ladies still be swimming in the outfield during the dog days of summer? (Mike Ehrmann - Getty Images)
And while a new ballpark — especially one with an outfield pool, fish tank and home run machine — generally provides an attendance surge in its first season, is there any reason to believe the Marlins can maintain it in the years to come?

Since 1999, the Marlins franchise has ranked 26th or lower in average annual attendance, according to Some of that can be attributed to a hybrid facility that continues to host the Miami Dolphins. And some of that can be attributed to a team that has not made the playoffs since 2003.

But history shows that success on the field does not translate at the box office. In their 2003 World Series campaign, the Marlins still ranked 28th in average attendance (16,089).

All of this begs the question: Will Marlins Park make a difference in the long run?

And the other question leftover from Wednesday’s opener: Who the heck designed that atrocity they call the home run machine?
A bronze statue of Jeff Conine could have done the trick instead of whatever this is. (Joe Skipper - Reuters)

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By  |  11:02 AM ET, 04/05/2012

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