Under construction since July, the Florida Marlins’ ballpark is actually beginning to look like a stadium.
On a media hard-hat tour of the site today (see video below), we not only could make out the seating bowl, but we got to walk from the ground level up to the upper deck, which will be known as the Vista Level, on the stadium’s west side for a spectacular view of downtown Miami. You can see the downtown skyline and even make out the Adrienne Arsht (performing arts) Center to the east.
To the west you can watch planes heading to Miami International Airport and overlook the west side plaza, which is going to be the length of three football fields and serve as a gathering place for fans on game days and the community on non-game days. When the retractable roof is open, it will be parked above the plaza.
Sid Perkins, the project’s construction manager who works for the Hunt/Moss venture building the ballpark, was again our tour guide. He wore his signature cowboy-shaped hard hat, but this time there were Marlins stickers all over it, including across the Smith & Wesson logo. And yes, he carried a cigar.
Perkins says the project is between 25 percent and 30 percent complete and has about 350 workers on site, which will rise to about 500 in the next month. He says construction is moving smoothly and the ballpark should be ready for baseball in 2012.
Every corner of the site seems to be humming with activity – storm sewers and water lines are going in, as are pipes for the first bathrooms. Roof beams that will support the track for the retractable roof have gone up on both the north and south sides of the stadium.
“That beam has been cast on the ground and pulled into place four or five days ago,” Perkins said pointing at one section of beam, which he says weighs 3.5 million pounds.
Perkins showed off what will be the stadium’s seven levels: the Field level; the Administrative level, which will include team offices; the Promenade level or the main concourse, which will be 360 degrees – meaning fans can walk all the way around it; the Founders level, encompassing 14 exclusive Founders suites containing 22 seats each; the Club level; Media level; and Vista Level – or the upper deck.
One of the main things Marlins Senior Vice President, Stadium Development Claude Delorme stressed during the tour was the cozy intimacy of the ballpark. For example, the Vista Level is 93 feet high – offering a panoramic view of downtown. The top of the upper deck will reach about 125 feet, which Delorme says is shorter than many ballparks, which reach 150 feet to 160 feet.
Delorme said 21,600 of the ballpark’s 37,000 seats will be on the Promenade or main concourse level. “We really wanted to make sure the majority of our fans were on the main level,” he said.
Additionally, he said, the seat closest to home plate will be just 47.5 feet away – rather than the typical 55 feet in most stadiums. “We were able to get an exemption from MLB to be at 47.5, [which] again, makes it much more intimate.”
Delorme said contracts worth about $300 million or about 80 percent of the value of the construction have been awarded, including bid packages for concrete, steel, the scoreboard and seating. He said work is to begin on the two parking garages on the stadium’s north side in May with the two on the south side to begin in October or November.