03/31/12 2:25 PM ET
Homer feature emblematic of artistic Miami park
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
The eye-catching 75-foot home run structure stands out behind the wall in left-center field.
Initially, the Marlins planned on using the display for the Sunday and Monday exhibitions against the Yankees. The team instead has decided to debut the home run structure on Opening Night.
The work of famed artist, Red Grooms, the sculpture will spin, illuminate and kick up water whenever a Miami player goes deep.
"It's meant to make you smile," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said. "It's meant to entertain. It's meant to be a rallying point in the ballpark, and that's exactly what it is."
When activated, there will be spinning marlins, seagulls twirling, flamingos flapping their wings, and water moving for 32 seconds.
"It's unlike any other home run feature in any other baseball park," Loria said. "I did not want to see us create something that was just one movement and back. Other stadiums have very interesting things, like Citi Field, with its apple. But I wanted a lot of activity. It's a fun thing."
The structure simply can't be ignored. It's colorful and stands out. It's also been the target of critics, who contend it's overdone and has an amusement park feel.
"I think it's definitely Miami," Marlins left fielder Logan Morrison said. "It's very colorful, very innovative. I think there is no need to hold out your bat when you hit a home run and walk down the line any more, because the stadium will pimp it for you."
Criticism is nothing new for the Marlins. They've heard plenty of it when they redesigned their uniforms and logo, going with a more colorful look.
"I view it the same way I view the logo," team president David Samson said. "There were mixed reviews when the logo was leaked."
For all the jabs the team took over the new uniforms, merchandise sales for the new gear have been rising since they were unveiled last November.
"I think any time you do something new and different, the knee-jerk reaction from bloggers or people who post comments is negative," Samson said. "But we have blinders on. This ballpark would have never been built if we had listened to the negativity. And the majority of the fans want it. A majority of the fans will love this home run sculpture, because they'll start living with it. It will become their own."
In designing and building the ballpark, the vision was to always make it much more than another baseball venue. Everything from the use of color and meticulous attention to detail demonstrates how Marlins Park literally is a work of art.
"My idea was to have people use their eyes and encourage them to use their eyes," said Loria, an art dealer. "We wanted a ballpark filled with great baseball, great entertainment, and occasionally, some images to be seen and enjoyed. It's not about an art gallery. But it's about images relating to the game. There are a few of them in the park."
If you are looking for red-brick and a retro-feel, you've come to the wrong place. Marlins Park stands alone. Its look is intended to reflect the city in which it stands.
"When you marry baseball and art, you really get something that's interesting to look at," Samson said. "Architecture is the same thing. Look at the way color is used on the walls, on the floors, on the TVs, everywhere. Color is such an important part of this building."
The building screams Miami.
Literally embedded into the wall behind home plate are two 450-gallon fish tanks. There even will be a bobblehead museum, featuring 700-800 of the dolls from all over baseball.
A reprint of renowned pop culture artist Roy Lichtenstein's 1962 painting of "The Manager" is proudly displayed. As is a nearly 40-foot reprint of Kenny Scharf's "Play Ball."
The actual structure of the building was sketched by Loria on a napkin as he sat in a meeting with respected ballpark architect Earl Santee in London.
"I sketched out this round building on a napkin," the Marlins owner said. "When it all started, the architects came to me and asked what I had envisioned. Was I looking to have a retro stadium? Did we have that in mind? I said, 'No retro, no art-deco, no looking back. Miami is a spectacular city, looking ahead. We need to be looking forward. I'd like to see us build a great, contemporary building."
Instead of red bricks, like so many new ballparks, the Marlins' new home is made of steel and glass. Loria's mandate was to make the building look like it was created in the 21st century, not the 20th century.
Much of the ballpark is influenced by the late Spanish artist, Joan Miro, who passed away in 1983.
Loria actually met with Miro's family, getting their input on the stadium project. The four primary colors of the ballpark -- green, red, yellow and blue -- were inspired by Miro. Each color has its own section.
Behind home plate is the blue. The left-field side is red, while the right field side is yellow. It all culminates in the outfield, which is green.
"If you look carefully, in those sections, they dissolve into the next color, and the colors mix," Loria said.
There is an artistic touch in pretty much every aspect of the building.
"Having an owner who is an art dealer is a huge advantage when you are building a 928,000-square foot building from scratch," Samson said. "Jeffrey has visions of things and how they can look, because he sees art in a way that most people do not."
The Marlins certainly didn't lose sight of the fact their new home rests on the old Orange Bowl grounds, once the hot spot for sports in Miami.
Artist Daniel Arsham created the commemorative Orange Bowl marker on the east side of the building.
The Marlins teamed with "Sports and the Arts" to decorate many of the walls and columns throughout the building.
Roughly 600 pieces of art, many of memorable Marlins and MLB moments, were remastered and placed along the walls and columns.
In the area that honors the history of Miami baseball, there is a photo of a 50-year-old Satchel Paige pitching at the Orange Bowl for the old Miami Marlins, a longtime Minor League affiliate that began playing in 1956 in the old Miami Stadium.
With all its shapes, images and forms, Marlins Park promises to provide a visual experience unmatched anywhere in the Major Leagues.
"There is more to see than just the game when you're walking around," Loria said. "It is meant to entertain. Baseball is an entertainment world, and we need to fill that with something different from what one normally sees at a stadium."