The Marlins have lined up the highest profile opponent to open the new ballpark with a pair of exhibitions against the Yankees on April 1 and 2, 2012.
It’s fitting as the Yankees are no strangers to historic openings, and played a notable role in launching the Marlins franchise.
The Yankees took part in the first game played indoors when the Houston Astrodome opened on April 9, 1965 as the “eighth wonder of the world." The Astros won the exhibition 2-1 with Mickey Mantle hitting the first home run under the dome.
More significant to South Florida, the Yankees played two exhibitions against the Orioles in March 1991 at what was then Joe Robbie Stadium after it was reconfigured for baseball. The first was a sellout of 67,654, the latter drew more than 50,000.
H. Wayne Huizenga used it as a signal that South Florida was ready for an expansion team, saying, “It shows the interest and it shows the fans have supported and will support Major League Baseball in South Florida.”
Those words now have an ironic ring, but they had an impact then. The franchise that became the Marlins was awarded that June.
Putting new park to test
The exhibitions with the Yankees will be the last of several dress rehearsals that will open the ballpark. They will be preceded by some college games played to smaller crowds. There will be about 25,000 tickets available for the first exhibition with the Yankees (a 1:10 p.m. Sunday game) and 30,000 the next night for a 7:10 p.m. start. All season-ticket holders for 2012 will get first crack at tickets.
The Marlins will play the season opener against the Cardinals on April 4 to an expected full house of 37,000.
“Finding a team that would draw, you can’t go wrong with the Yankees. It’s the end of spring training, so you know the big players are going to be here,” said P.J. Loyello, Marlins senior vice president of communications. “There are a few ways we’ll have to break open the ballpark and make sure everything works properly from the restrooms to concession and everything before Opening Day.”
As construction nears completion, various sales and marketing events will give fans a chance to look over the ballpark. A select-a-seat day may be set as soon as mid-November, Loyello said.
The unveiling of a new logo and name change to Miami Marlins is slated for Nov. 11.
Work at the site of the Orange Bowl in Little Havana is 76 percent complete, with work nearly finished on the retractable roof. With the white, rubberized membrane being installed to reflect heat, the interior of the ballpark has gotten noticeably cooler, Loyello said.