Miami is the latest city to build a fan-friendly new ballpark. These stadiums have cropped up in 20 Major League Baseball cities over the past two decades, ever since Baltimore started the revolution. But the new Marlins Park isn’t another red brick retro number.
Hey, this is Miami. Marlins Park is futuristic, sun-bleached white and in your face. It’s like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum on steroids, with ground-floor plazas of palm trees.
The city has been exploding with out-there architecture, from designer parking garages to its New World Symphony hall. The park is a stellar addition to the skyline. It sits on the site of the legendary Orange Bowl and was created by Populous, an offshoot of HOK, the famed stadium builder.
On its east plaza, you can climb and sit on 10-foot “Orange Bowl” letters, looking as if they’d spilled during the 2008 demolition. The retractable roof on the 37,000-seat park protects fans from the sudden showers and high humidity of baseball season in Miami.
Happily, unlike at its cross-state rival in Tampa Bay, the roof moves and the games are played on real Bermuda grass. There’s a view of the Miami skyline past left and center fields. You can walk the promenade level around the park without missing a pitch. But inside, there’s a heavy concrete feel because of the structure needed to carry the enormous roof.
As we explored the park, we found less art than we’d hoped to see, given that owner Jeffrey Loria is an art dealer. An impressive ceramic of a Joan Miro painting tops one escalator. Kenny Scharf’s fun mixed media “Play Ball!” is crammed into a corner behind the team store. The most significant piece of art is the $2.5 million home run sculpture by pop artist Red Grooms. It stands more than 70feet tall in left center field and looks like a flamingo pinball machine, with marlins that jump when a Marlin hits a home run. Gaudy, but hey, this is Miami.
There’s live organ music, but we just don’t get the two 22-foot-long, 450-gallon fish tanks behind home plate. Unless you’re sitting right there with Miami’s 1 percent or are watching on television, they look like blank walls.
The Bobblehead Museum on the promenade behind home plate is a display, not a museum, but it’s a laugh to see hundreds of bobbleheads wired to jiggle in unison. There’s also an Orange Bowl tribute, with reproductions of gorgeous program covers on the promenade level beyond third base.
Good luck finding the local Latin food that the Marlins are promoting. In inexcusably bad judgment, the three stands of local food are literally hidden behind a wall beyond the left-field foul pole near Section 28. Make a beeline there, because it’s where you’ll find the best and least-expensive food in the park. The owner of the beloved Miami sandwich shop Papo Llega y Pon has brought her superlative roasted pork sandwiches and mojo criollo sauce. Skip the bread and get an overflowing portion of the crackled pork for just $5. Neighboring stands sell $10 ceviche and midnight Cuban sandwiches with great chips for $9. Contrast that with skimpy fish tacos for $12 at the standard concession stands.