MIAMI -- Commissioner Bud Selig said on Wednesday night that the new Marlins Park is a "phenomenal" facility that will ensure the foreseeable baseball future for both this franchise and this area.
"It's huge," Selig said of the advent of this ballpark, which officially opened on Wednesday with the Marlins playing the defending World Series champion Cardinals. "Every time you can take a franchise, and now know for the next two or three generations that you have it solidified, it's huge.
"Clubs in this economic climate of the last two decades, if you have [a ballpark that produces suitable revenue], that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win. That's up to the management, there are all kinds of different components. But without it, you have no chance. It's just not possible. I'm very optimistic about Major League attendance this year, and this is one of the reasons.
"You can tell by what happened this winter with the Marlins [acquiring expensive free agents]. Before now, they couldn't even contemplate this. And this makes the National League East even more interesting. And that's a good thing."
During a question-and-answer session at Marlins Park, Selig referred to the difficulties in getting this facility built and said that it would all prove to be worthwhile.
"Every stadium deal has had its difficulties," he said. "Some of them were more painful than others. But it's an interesting phenomenon, because you go through that period, and taxpayers understandably want to know who's paying for what and why -- perfectly justifiable. But then things happen. The stadium is up. You can debate the economic advantages, and economists will differ, because they're economists, I guess.
"But it's the sociological value -- what does it do for a community? And five years after the stadium is up, all the people who were critics are gone. It's the most remarkable thing, whether it's in the public sector or anywhere else. These stadiums have worked out so well. They just have enormous sociological value. You can debate it all day long, but whatever city you're in, whether it's Milwaukee or St. Louis or anywhere else, that ballpark makes that city a better place to live.
"Given what went on here for years, this is a very special day. It's a great day for the Marlins and a great day for baseball. I have absolutely no trepidation in saying that a decade from now, people will be saying that this is just a tremendous thing for the City of Miami and the surrounding area.
"[The Marlins] played in a ... football stadium that clearly wasn't designed for baseball, and the fans didn't want to go to it. It had none of the amenities, with all due respect. Now they've gone to a stadium with a [retractable] roof, which will deal with the daily thunderstorms and the heat. It will be remarkable. Does this make a huge difference? Oh, you bet it does. And underscore the huge. As far as attendance, [the Marlins] have potential they never had before."
Selig also addressed the 10-year, $225 million deal given by the Reds to slugging first baseman Joey Votto this afternoon.
"Joey is the face of that franchise, and I understand why the Reds did it," he said. "It's good if you can do it and preserve your star. It's healthy. And the other thing it proves is how healthy this sport is. These clubs are not going to be doing these things if they don't think they can afford to do it. The Cincinnati club is a very well-run club, and [Votto] is a great person off the field. There are some signings that I'm not wild about, but that's not one of them."
Questions on the pending sale of the Dodgers for more than $2 billion, which would be a record for a professional sports franchise, followed. Selig said that when he officially became Commissioner in 1998 (he had been the "interim" Commissioner for six years before that), he asked the owners to judge him over time on the "asset value" of their franchises.
"I said to [the owners] then what I say today: 'Someday, judge me on the asset value, because that's a composite of everything,'" he said. "I really believe that's a fair way to judge a Commissioner. I've had a lot of owners call me in the last week or so, and obviously, they've been very happy. The Ricketts family paid $845 million [for the Cubs], and people thought they were crazy. Now that looks pretty good.
"This sport has never been this popular. It's never been like this."
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.