12/28/11 10:19 AM EST
Marlins' new home to feature aquatic theme
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
MIAMI -- The Miami Seaquarium may be the place to see dolphins walk on water and killer whales, but it won't be the only aquatic attraction in South Florida when the 2012 Major League Baseball season gets under way.
Sea life will be yet another unique feature at the New Marlins Ballpark.
With the stadium sitting in the shadows of the Atlantic Ocean, the organization feels it is only natural to display a couple of aquariums. What will make people take notice is where they are located.
Last Friday, two 450-gallon fish tanks were installed inside the wall behind the home-plate wall. They are positioned on the first- and third-base sides, and currently they are not filled with water.
The fish will be protected by shatter-proof glass, and the team has been ensured the fish will be safe.
"The reason this has never been done before, is not that it can't be done," Marlins president David Samson said. "It's because no one thought to do it."
In the early stages of building the ballpark, team owner Jeffrey Loria insisted to make the stadium mirror Miami.
After batting around ideas, it was decided to install aquariums.
"It really a natural progression from the original mandate from Jeffrey, which was to make this building completely Miami," Samson said. "So that our fans, those in South Florida, and really baseball fans around the world, when they see a Marlins game on TV, they will know very quickly that it is in Miami. For all the millions of people who come to the games, they will know they're in Miami as well."
The aquariums will provide the fish with a home at the ballpark that is safe from crowd and stadium sound-system noises. And the glass is shatter-proof if it were to be struck by a baseball.
"As far as the fish are concerned, all I can tell you is we are working with people who work with fish for a living," Samson said. "If we thought for one minute that the fish were in danger in any way, we wouldn't have done it."
The aquariums are another bold move by Marlins' management, which has never been afraid to take risks. The ballpark also will sport a colorful fountain-like home run display, which has drawn some criticism.
"Any time you do something new and different, you open yourself up to criticism," Samson said. "But that's never stopped us before. I think we're always trying to do new things and give fans an experience that they've never had."
Another change from the past is the Marlins are clearly integrating themselves more into Miami. In November, the team was renamed the Miami Marlins, and they are seeking local business partners.
In late October, the Marlins teamed with trendy South Beach establishment, The Clevelander, which is sponsoring the stadium's poolside area behind the left-field wall. The section promises to be lively as it will host parties before, during and after games.
"We started thinking of very creative and different things we could do that were unique to Miami," Samson said. "That's how The Clevelander was born, the area behind left field. That was born because The Clevelander really is iconic to Miami. It only makes sense to Miami.
"The Home Run Feature is very similar. It will have a very Miami feel. Then we started talking about behind the plate."
In recent years, Marlins officials visited a number of new stadiums, observing their features. What they noticed is the wall behind the plate is similar no matter where they went.
"In other ballparks, behind home plate, there was a lot of brick and limestone, or just green padding," Samson said. "We just sat down and said, 'What can we do with this part of the ballpark that's never been done?' And we just came up with the idea, 'How about an aquarium, is that even possible?'"
Initially, the club considered placing marlins in the tanks. But because of their size, that quickly was put to rest.
What fit were salt-water tanks.
The fish will range in size from one to eight inches.
"We will have a wide selection, and they will be very colorful," Samson said. "It's an opportunity to add something very interesting for people to look at and just notice, no matter where they are in the ballpark."
In the final days of 2011, the ballpark is 91 percent completed, and it is on time and on budget for the April 4 opener against the Cardinals.
"Our hope is that one trip to the ballpark, you can't experience everything," Samson said. "You'll have to come back time and time again, because there is always something new to see."
The aquariums are another feature to take notice.
"Of course, good baseball and winning baseball is the No. 1 attraction," Samson said. "That is something we've felt we've accomplished [with some major free-agent signings] this offseason. You put that together with the new ballpark, and we think we may have created magic. But time will tell."