More on the Marlins’ new ballpark

Andrew, an urban planner/architect and Mets fan in Miami, chimed in on the Marlins’ new ballpark in the comments section for yesterday’s post. It’s interesting stuff for Mets fans and general baseball fans, so I’m reposting it here. He writes:

Interesting to hear your take on the stadium Ted. I’m a New Yorker (Mets fan of course) that’s been in Miami for about 11 years; a UM grad with fond memories of the old OB; and, an urban planner/architect.

As you correctly assumed, the inception of the stadium was fraught with complaints, major tax implications, and allegations (in our corrupt city, likely true) of back-door dealings. On they plodded and a few years later we are one season from away from baseball in Little Havana. I find myself wondering how the new stadium will (or won’t) impact baseball in South Florida.

Miami is notoriously a bandwagon sports town; this isn’t a stereotype, it’s a legit description of the situation. I worked my way through college at a couple of sports bars and witnessed the ebbs and flows of the “loyal” fans as each the Marlins and Heat won their championships. I am living life in a “post-Decision” Miami, where Heat shirts and license plates are more abundant than when they signed Shaq.

Miami is a major melting pot for Latin America, Cuba, and other baseball-centric cultures and it always seemed to me that there are a tremendous amount of fans waiting for the opportunity to take part in So Fla baseball. Until now the team simply hasn’t found a way to tap the roots of the people here. The Marlins as an organization have done a great job fielding a decent team year after year (with 2 championships in its short history) despite being generally unable to afford their players as they come into their prime. However, it has never translated into a solid fan base. I hope that the new stadium will provide increased opportunities for the cultivation of loyal fans.

The current stadium, aside from being a cavernous place which was designed for football, is sited in an awkward location. Neither in the heart of Miami or Fort Lauderdale, it sits somewhere in between, with no dense population area to support it. In addition to its poor location, Sun Life has no transit access, is positioned to be heavily impacted by rush hour(s) traffic for evening games, and is a logistical nightmare. Parking is a major PITA and circulation around and near the stadium is non-existent. The current stadium is simply inaccessible for many people.

The new stadium on the other hand will sit right in the heart of little Havana (where the OB used to live), be much more central to the greater Miami area, and can be accessed a variety of ways. It will be closer to where the possible fans live, not the retirees and transplants living in Boca and northward. Hopefully this will help establish a cadre of passionate fans that come to root on their team.

While I’m sure it will be a great venue for baseball (as many of the new stadiums are), sadly it is a lurching spasm of sheet metal that pays no homage to the historic roots of its community. Despite strong efforts by local architects (and a friend of mine who spent an entire studio in architecture school studying the area and creating a much more sensitive design), the Marlins brass felt the stadium’s design had to be emblematic of the cutting edge (the worst rationale in architectural history; see every new hospital built since 2000). While the retractable roof will be a welcome addition to baseball in So Fla, surely a more contextual design would have blended better with the community. Large structured parking will face the stadium’s neighbors; they failed to utilize a proliferating trend of surrounding garages with habitable spaces (shops on the ground floors, at the least). This would have helped to enhance the adjacent streets much more than blank parking garages. I fear that the neighborhood streets will ultimately be damaged frontages as opposed to being reinvigorated by the new development. In the end the stadium was about the Marlins organization and their players, not the community.

I wish the Marlins good fortune in their new stadium, but hopefully we Mets fans continue to represent and dominant the new stadium just like we have Sun Life over the years.

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