Marlins Park Seen as Savior
In the early 1990’s, Major League Baseball appointed the Florida Marlins as an expansion team. However, they would be sharing a stadium with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
Back then, such co-habitation was the norm in professional sports. Not only that, but the current fan base endured game delays caused by frequent rainstorms in the Southeast. After having won 2 World Series Championships within its first decade in existence, the people of South Florida deserved better. Ownership basically re-branded the franchise as the Miami Marlins.
It became high time to build a brand-new state-of-the-art stadium. After a massive search, the current regime decided on the site of the former Orange Bowl. Then, they were ready to break ground. This new ballpark gave long-term stability. The Marlins finally would have a permanent home. Relocation would not occur. As a life-long fan of the game, Marlins Park seemed to me like the perfect solution.
Unfortunately, some hurdles still remained. For one, many fans lived in Palm Beach or Broward County. It was not ideal for them to have to drive further to watch a game live. But, in today’s world, you have to make some sacrifices to get what you desire.
New Marlins Era Gets Underway
After years of uncertainty, the area’s dwindling fan base would get the ultimate prize. The re-branding was finally complete on November 11, 2011. Unveiled were new uniforms; logos; and, best of all, a baseball-only facility. Local high schools played the first-ever game at then-Marlins Park on March 5, 2012, designed as a “soft opening”. The very next day, the ballpark hosted another amateur game.
After a successful debut, the next step was to conclude Spring Training with a couple of exhibition games against the New York Yankees. That would give a population full of former New Yorkers a first-hand look at the new facility. Both games included capacity crowds. Finally, the grand opening commenced with Marlins Park’s first MLB Opening Day game on April 4, 2012, versus the St. Louis Cardinals.
The long-awaited venue’s more unique features really made it stand out amongst other ballparks. Most importantly, a retractable roof prevented fans from having to sit through lengthy rain delays. Other aspects included: the Clevelander in left field. This “mini nightclub” was based off the nearby hotel and consisted of a full-service bar, live entertainment, and a swimming pool. In addition, the area above left field contained “Taste of Miami”, essentially a small food court with local cuisine.
On top of that, center field housed my personal favorite aspect. There sat a large colorful sculpture originally designed with local Miami Beach art deco in mind. Its sole purpose was to light up and splash water after every Marlins home run. Affectionately given the moniker “Homer”, the previous team owner saw it as the coup de grace (think Mets’ home run apple). Unfortunately, not everyone saw the sculpture as absolutely necessary.
LoanDepot Park Embraced
Ultimately, times and demands changed yet again. The new ownership group decided to make wholesale changes. Not only did they drastically reduce payroll, but Taste of Miami; the Clevelander; and Homer were all removed. The coronavirus pandemic prohibited fans from attending games in 2020, which could be partially responsible.
The shocking news of such omissions had mixed reviews. In my personal opinion, these elements really made the newly-named LoanDepot Park truly one-of-a-kind, and I was sad to see them go. However, this cloud had a silver lining, as the sculpture still exists nearby. It now sits in another spot just outside the venue, and a new sports-bar lounge and restaurant, known as Recess, opened in left field in 2021-22.