You may disagree with the amount of public funding that’s been committed to it or its location at the former site of the Orange Bowl, but the Florida Marlins’ ballpark is actually being built. Construction is thoroughly underway.
So much so that the team was happy to show off the ongoing construction during a hardhat media tour this morning. Check out a photo gallery here. Sid Perkins, the project’s construction manager who works for the Hunt/Moss joint venture that his building the venue, was our tour guide. He wore a black Marlins polo shirt, a cowboy-shaped hardhat with a Smith & Wesson logo, and carried a cigar.
We had to wear hardhats, too, (although not cowboy-shaped), some of which had been used by Miami-Dade County Commissioners during the ceremonial ground-breaking on July 18. I got Bruno Barriero’s; Miami Herald Marlins beat writer Clark Spencer’s was Sally Heyman's…(insert joke here…)
On the stadium’s north side, four of the dozen 138-foot tall super columns that will support the roof structure have been completed. The four on the south side are underway and should be completed by the end of November. The final four will be located in the plaza area at the west entrance of the ballpark.
On the west side of the site, the executives’ offices that will overlook home plate are also underway. Marlins President David Samson pointed out two construction workers who were literally standing in what will be his office. Of the 30,000 square feet of offices, so far about 6,000 square feet have been constructed.
Just to the south of the administrative offices, heading up the first base line, you can actually see part of the seating deck being built.
In the outfield the framing for the glass panels offering a view of downtown Miami is also coming together. Some 220 workers are on site moving cranes and dirt, sawing wood, pouring concrete. By Christmas that should rise to 400 workers. Overall, Perkins said 800 to 1,000 people will work on the project.
Carlos Ruiz called the work a godsend. Ruiz is vice president of Equipment Tool Solution in Hialeah, which is renting equipment for the project.
“If it wasn’t for this project here I would have had to let go half of my staff, literally half of my staff, because nothing is coming up. As far as new construction, there’s very, very little,” Ruiz said.
The Marlins say they have exceeded their contractual commitment to hire locals, with more than 61 percent of the firms and workers coming from Miami-Dade County, Marlins Senior Vice President, Stadium Development Claude Delorme said. He said the construction is ahead of schedule, so far, and on budget. (That’s the ballpark budget, not the ballooning cost of the parking garages and lots, for which the city of Miami is responsible. Parking was meant to be capped at $94 million, but with soft costs rose to $135 million. Last week, Miami Commissioners would only agree to spend $120 million.)
Delorme said what sets the ballpark apart from others will be its intimate size at 36,000 seats with room for another 1,000 standing, its views of Miami and its plaza that will measure three and half football fields and will include pre- and post-game activities.
“This is my fifth Major League ballpark, the first one with a retractable roof,” Perkins said. “Prior to this, they’ve all been in retro style. This is a very modernistic design. These buildings are very exciting. You have the ability to come and see it and watch it on TV.”
Samson said he visits the site once or twice a week. He said while the building is being constructed, team officials are working on plans for decorating and programming the 900,000 square foot venue, scheduled to open in April 2012.
“It’s still overwhelming because the work that has to be done to get the shell built is one thing, but then picture [picking out] finishes, going room by room like we’re doing with outlets and TVs and data drops and furniture and how many chairs do you need,” Samson said. “We have a whole group of people committed solely to figuring out where memorabilia and art is going to go, on which walls because there’s thousands of things that have to happen. And time’s ticking and it’s going to be opening day very soon.”
But then he added: “It’s great to see progress…We’re only in the second inning.”
On his way out of the site Thursday, Samson stopped one of the construction workers, who was wearing a hardhat featuring a Miami Dolphins logo. He needed to get the man’s contact information, he said, to get him a hardhat with a Marlins logo.