Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Justin's Review: Land Shark Stadium

Ballpark Design:  You probably haven’t heard too many good things said about Land Shark (nee Dolphin) Stadium, and I’m going to disappoint you if you are looking for many.  It’s just about as bad as it looks.  The Marlins play in a football stadium lacking in charm, uniqueness, modern amenities, or just about anything else that you would like in a baseball stadium (and, for that matter, I can’t imagine it being much better for football).  Let’s start with the concourses – they’re dark, concrete, and cellar-like.  There is one fairly nice area – inside of a bulge that sort of sticks out of the side of the ballpark – that is wide open and airy, with picnic tables and such, but it is the exception.  What’s worse is that you always have to walk through the concourse – unlike most other stadiums that lack open concourses, there is no aisle within the seating area that allows you to get around the stadium.  The playing field and seating areas are not much better – the Marlins have done their best to adapt the field to baseball, but there is no doubt what sport it was actually built for.  The large wall they’ve added in left field, containing the out of town scoreboard and lineups, adds a bit of character (a green monster type feel), but feels almost forced.  The folded up football seats that lie behind it are an eyesore, as are the seats covered in tarps that make up the center field batter’s eye.  On the positive side, the Marlins have successfully added a bit of character to the stadium – they have pennants representing the other National League teams flying in each corner of the upper deck, as well as flags for their two World Championships.  However, it is hard to disguise the fact that baseball was clearly an afterthought (or perhaps not even a thought at all) when this ballpark was built. F

Scoreboard/Soundtrack: The actual information provided by the two main scoreboards was actually pretty good – plenty of stats about every player, pitch speed, pitch counts, etc.  My only real complaint was the positioning – once again, the two screens were clearly designed with football in mind, such that they would be over each end zone.  Great positioning for football, but not so much for baseball, where one hangs at the top of the upper deck above third base, and the other one is situated high above far right field.  Also, they appeared to be having some difficulties during the game, with the batter and score failing to advance for about an inning.  The out of town scoreboard located in the left field wall gave only the scores and innings, but did show all the games at once.  The soundtrack wasn’t notable, neither good nor bad.  B

Food/Drink: There wasn’t a lot of variety, although I didn’t spend a ton of time exploring food options.  I had a hot dog that was perfectly fine, and they seemed to have most of the typical ballpark food.  There was some sort of bar located right near the entrance to the main concourse, but I didn’t notice any particular variety in beer choices. B-

Fans:  First, the bad: the announced attendance was around 11,000, and after a nearly two hour rain delay to start, there were hardly half that there when the game began.  But the good news was that the fans who were there were very into the game, cheering and making noise throughout, even with the team scuffling offensively.  It was quite impressive that the atmosphere was so much better than some other stadiums we have been to, even with fewer people there.  A few thoughts on the Marlins’ attendance issues: We all know Miami has some sort of issue with baseball attendance, with the Marlins barely averaging 20,000 even in their best years.  I have no clue what explains it – perhaps it really is simply because people would rather spend all day on the beach than in an eyesore of a stadium, but that seems like too convenient of an explanation to me.  Chances are their attendance will go up for a couple years when they move into a new ballpark in 2012, but I doubt a new ballpark will solve all of their attendance woes.  I don’t have any better ideas though, short of moving the team somewhere else. C-

City/Stadium Neighborhood:  We didn’t spend any time in Miami proper, but we did spend the day out in Miami Beach, which is always a fun area with a great beach.  I don’t know a ton about the actual city, other than some research I did for my thesis last year, but it seems like a fun place, if not a place I would want to live.  As for the stadium area, it was in a parking lot surrounded by very little, although there was a strip of fast food restaurants and other businesses right nearby, which turned out to be a good place to wait out most the rainstorm that delayed the start of the game. City: B; Neighborhood: C

Game:  The first 7 innings or so were rather dull – the Giants scored 3 relative early runs, and Tim Lincecum dominated the Marlins, allowing only 1 hit through 7 innings.  However, a Chris Coghlan two run homer in the 8th brought the Marlins within one and got the crowd really in to it, making for an exciting finish.  The Marlins got a couple runners on in the ninth, but couldn’t bring any home, giving the Giants the 3-2 win.  The exciting finish partly makes up for the first 7 innings, but after having seen a bunch of low scoring games, I would have liked to see a little more offense. B

Overall Experience:  While the energy of the few fans there certainly helped our overall experience, it couldn’t make up for the problems of the stadium and the fact that it was so empty.  Still, we got to see an okay game, and even in the ugliest stadium out there, baseball is still a beautiful game.  That alone will always help the grade a bit. C+

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