The Florida Marlins are planning on opening a retractable roof stadium which seats 37,000 by Opening Day in 2011. Because of lawsuits and some other red-tape, however, the franchise's plan for finally getting a baseball-only facility in southern Florida had to be delayed. Today, finally, the proceedings seem to have concluded.
On Friday in Miami-Dade Court, Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen signed an order saying that a voter referendum was not required for the 37,000-seat stadium's financing plan. The decision means all seven rulings brought up by auto dealer Norman Braman's lawsuit, challenging the $3 billion that will be spent on Miami projects -- of which the stadium is a part -- went in favor of the Marlins.
Marlins fans -- the dozens of them -- should be extremely excited about this. Getting a baseball-only ballpark that isn't really a football field will give the Marlins a better chance to fill the stadium. Ideally the ballpark experience attracts more fans, and Miami is a large enough market to start competing annually in the National League.
On the other hand, will fans in Miami -- in the middle of the summer -- actually start flocking to the games just because a new ballpark is built? Miami is a city in which it's tough to be bored, so the on-field product is what will have to fill the park. If I were the Marlins, I'd try to have a very strong and exciting team ready for 2011. If that means a free agent spending spree a la 1997, so be it.
Finally, the original deal reached with the city required the team to change its name to the Miami Marlins. Now all they need to do is move to the American League before 2015 to make Back to the Future's vision come true! You know I'm looking forward to that.
You can check out the new stadium details along with a sketch at Ballparks.