Munsey on Ballparks
More on Florida
by Paul Munsey (archive)
May 21, 2005
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Marlins game in Miami. It had been a long time since I was in Dolphins Stadium. In fact, it was two name-changes ago, for a football game. The stadium is surrounded by a huge parking lot and it is one of the few venues where I have seen tailgaters for a baseball game.
Despite the pastel colors which adorn the stadium, it looks rugged. It is easy to see that the place can take the beating that 75,000 football fans must give it. It is completely enclosed and the luxury suite levels rise so high that the place feels like an indoor stadium.
When the Marlins don't anticipate a large crowd, which is most of the time, they close off the upper deck. No one is allowed up there, so the entire upper deck is empty during games. The only other baseball park I have been to which did that is Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
The Marlins have brought home two World Series championships since they entered the league in 1993. Their home town is a beautiful place where people come from around the world to visit. If any team deserves a new ballpark, it's the Marlins. They should be playing ball in a downtown waterfront ballpark instead of being sealed inside a suburban football stadium.
South Florida is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. Unlike most cities, whose suburbs surround their downtown like spokes around a hub, the millions of people in South Florida live in a long narrow corridor along the Atlantic Ocean. Because of that geographic fact, it is difficult for anything to be centrally located. Unfortunately, it is too far for many people to drive down to Miami for a baseball game.
Perhaps South Florida is better suited for minor league baseball. Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach could each support a triple-A team. I'd be willing to bet that they would get better combined attendance than the Marlins. Their ballparks could also be used for Spring Training.
As I departed Florida, I was able to stop and see the Spring Training ballparks I missed the week before on my way into the state.
Fort Lauderdale Stadium, where the Orioles hold Spring Training, is located adjacent to the city's executive airport. Despite its location, the ballpark doesn't feel like an urban facility. It is surrounded by office parks, so the need for security isn't as great as it would be if there were more people living in the area. Years ago, the Yankees held Spring Training here. After seeing their facility in Tampa, I'm wondering why they left.
Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter hosts the Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals in the spring. It's very modern and is surrounded by upscale homes and office buildings. The ballpark is easily accessible from I-95, the interstate highway which runs north-south along the Atlantic coast of Florida, a couple of miles inland.
Traditions Field in Port St. Lucie is the springtime home of the Mets. It is also easily accessible from I-95, but further away from the big cities than Roger Dean Stadium. This remoteness is, in my opinion, what makes this a must-see Spring Training ballpark. Increasingly, I find myself considering convenience when rating a ballpark, especially a Spring Training ballpark. The less traffic and congestion, and the friendlier the staff, the more I like it.
Holman Stadium in Vero Beach has been the spring home of the Dodgers since they were in Brooklyn. Dodgertown is the subdivision where the team's complex is located, along with a conference center, a golf course and lodging. It all looks very comfortable and very Floridian. The ballpark is a very intimate facility. Although it's not the smallest Spring Training ballpark, it certainly appears that way.
Spacecoast Stadium, the spring home of the Nationals, is further up the coast of Florida. It, too, is convenient to I-95 and is a fine facility. The stadium sits by itself, but is in a rapidly developing part of Melbourne. It won't be long until the place is surrounded by suburban sprawl. Perhaps it was the lack of trees in the area, but Spacecoast Stadium didn't have the charm of its counterparts down the coast.
My last hours in in Florida were spent attending a game at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, where the Jacksonville Suns double-A team plays. Sandwiched between Alltel Stadium and Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the ballpark is part of a sports complex less than a mile from downtown. The complex integrates well into the city grid, while still providing plenty of parking, similar to Coors Field in Denver.
Nearby is Metropolitan Park, which sits on the St. John's River. In the distance can be seen the enormous bridges serving the city which cross the river. The ballpark is clad in brick, and inside are many features which give the place an old-time charm.
Paul Munsey is the editor of Ballparks.com.
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Munsey on Ballparks © 2005 by Paul Munsey.
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