The All-Star Game showcases Marlins Park as an architectural gem
Marlins Park, with its modern design and colorful decor, was always intended to be much more than a home for baseball.
Step inside, and you'll find yourself striding into a vibrant baseball exhibit. Given that Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins' owner beginning in 2002, first made a name for himself as an art dealer, that was exactly the vision. The retractable-roof ballpark is literally a work of art that blends naturally into Miami's sunny skyline, and its design gives the structure an appearance of a museum, where baseball is the main attraction.
Before moving into Marlins Park, though, the ballclub began its tenure at the Miami Dolphins' football stadium, which is perhaps best known for its lengthy succession of names. Called Joe Robbie Stadium when it hosted its first MLB game, Miami's home field later became Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Land Shark Stadium and Sun Life Stadium before settling on its current moniker, Hard Rock Stadium, after the Marlins moved out. (To recap, that's seven different names during the Marlins' 19-year residence.)
The Marlins enjoyed immediate success there, averaging an impressive 38,000 fans per game in 1993 and winning the World Series in '97 and 2003. And the club made the park its own as best as possible, with fans even growing to love the giant wall in left field that was derisively dubbed "The Teal Monster." But finally, after nearly two decades of sharing, the Marlins found a permanent home of their own in 2012, two miles from downtown Miami.
The team didn't lose touch with the history of its new park's location. Nestled in the Little Havana section of town, Marlins Park rests on sacred ground, in the very footprint of the famed Orange Bowl, which was razed in 2008. The Orange Bowl was the site of so many great college football and NFL games, including but not limited to Joe Namath's famous "guarantee" before Super Bowl III. In fact, to honor the past, artist Daniel Arsham fittingly created a commemorative Orange Bowl marker that resides on the east side of the building.
Not surprisingly, much of Marlins Park was influenced by artists, specifically the late Spanish artist Joan Miro, who passed away in 1983. When communicating his concept for his team's new home, Loria actually sketched his vision of the building onto a napkin as he met with respected ballpark architect Earl Santee in London.
That vision came to life in the form of the white, neomodern venue, just the seventh ballpark in the Major Leagues to feature a retractable roof. The roof itself is one of the most essential elements of the ballpark. In the Marlins' first 19 seasons, South Florida's unpredictable rain patterns caused numerous delays, as they played in the aforementioned open-air stadium of many names. The three-panel roof travels at a speed of 39 feet per minute, so in just about 13 minutes, nearly 19 million pounds of ceiling can easily open and shut. To fans, this means no rain delays. And on hot, steamy days, it means sitting in a climate-controlled setting to comfortably take in a midsummer ballgame.
The ballpark was also designed to be environmentally friendly, as it's the first retractable-roof structure in the world to earn LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
From field level to the rafters, the stadium is an architectural marvel. When the operable wall and roof are open, the park offers a breathtaking view of downtown Miami. Each of the 37,442 seats also offers a clear sightline to the playing field. And literally embedded into the wall behind home plate are two 450-gallon fish tanks, home to dozens of tropical fish.
In so many ways, the building screams Miami. The color scheme throughout is as lively as the city itself. During the stadium's design phase, Loria sought input from Miro's family, and one of the key takeaways was to give the Marlins' new home a quintessentially Miami feel, which included the adoption of bold colors. Thus, each seating area corresponds to a distinct color to help fans navigate throughout the ballpark. Behind home plate is blue. The left-field side is red, while the right-field side is yellow. It all culminates in the outfield, which is painted an electrifying lime green.
There is, certainly, an artistic feel in almost every section of the ballpark, as well. A reprint of pop culture artist Roy Lichtenstein's 1963 painting "The Manager" -- who just so happens to resemble Ted Williams -- is prominently displayed. There's also a 40-foot reprint of Kenny Scharf's "Playball!" On the promenade level, there is the Baseball in Motion installment, in which images appear to move in 3-D as fans pass by.
Behind home plate on the same level is one of the most popular in-game destinations: the bobblehead museum, which showcases more than 600 figures that wiggle at the press of a button. Fans swarm the bobblehead exhibit before, during and after each game, huddling around it to take photos and watch the collectibles bounce back and forth with a simple nudge.
In all, roughly 600 pieces of art, many depicting noteworthy Marlins and MLB moments, were remastered and placed along the walls and columns. For example, in the "history of Miami baseball" area, fans can find a photo of then-50-year-old Satchel Paige pitching at the Orange Bowl for the old Miami Marlins, a longtime Minor League organization that predated the current franchise and began playing in 1956 in the old Miami Stadium.
But the centerpiece is without a doubt the 72-foot home run sculpture in center field. The sculpture, the work of famed artist Red Grooms, is the most visible and colorful artistic feature in the entire ballpark. When a Marlins player hits a home run, a series of effects swirl into motion: It illuminates and kicks up water for 32 seconds, all while featuring an array of marlins spinning, seagulls twirling and flamingos flapping their wings.
"It's definitely Miami," said Logan Morrison, an outfielder for the Marlins from 2010-13 who now plays across the state for the Rays. "There's no need to hold out your bat when you hit a home run and walk down the line anymore, because the stadium will pimp it for you."
Now in its sixth Big League season, Marlins Park is forging its own legacy within the game. The first official contest there was played on April 4, 2012, with franchise veteran Josh Johnson throwing the first pitch for the newly branded Miami Marlins. But the St. Louis Cardinals spoiled the grand opening with a 4-1 win.
Since then, the ballpark has hosted first round pool play during the World Baseball Classic in both the 2013 and '17 tournaments. Perhaps the most dramatic and energetic single game in WBC history took place in Miami this March, when the Dominican Republic and Team USA faced off in a thriller that was underscored by the passion of the festive fans.
In addition to baseball, it's also hosted soccer matches, auto racing events and college football's Miami Beach Bowl.
The trendy Clevelander club, complete with a pool, is located behind the left-field wall, and invites fans to watch the games in a festive party setting. The West Plaza has a large screen, and when the roof is open, it provides a wide, shaded area that is frequently used for events, ranging from concerts to the organization's annual turkey distribution the week before Thanksgiving.
Inside and out, Marlins Park is truly a destination. And as it hosts the 88th MLB All-Star Game, fans will find yet another reason to take in America's pastime from an out-of-this-world venue in the place they call The Magic City.
This article appears in the 2017 MLB Official All-Star Game Program. Read more features on allstargame.com.