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Miami Marlins' ticket sales soar, provide platform to build future


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MIAMI The Marlins built it, and fans are buying in to Marlins Park in a big way.

Season-ticket sales are approaching 15,000, Marlins President David Samson said before the Marlins played their first exhibition in the ballpark Tuesday. That would have ranked in the top third in the major leagues last season, he said.

And where did the Marlins rank in season-ticket sales in their final season at Sun Life Stadium?

“We were three standard deviations from next to last, is the best way to say that,” he said. “We were No. 125 -- counting minor league teams.”

More than 130,000 tickets were sold at Saturday’s FanFest, the most in one day in franchise history, by far. And none of them were individual tickets for Opening Day, which are limited to a lottery.

“It was just overwhelming,” Samson said. “In the past our FanFest was 80 percent Opening Day [sales].”

The Marlins plan to continue selling season-ticket packages through May. Samson said even if demand continues to grow, they will cap it at about 18,000. Ballpark capacity is 37,000.

“We wouldn’t sell 35,000 season-tickets, even if we could,” he said. “There is such a demand for groups and people coming from [places like] Naples and the Keys, and individual tickets are going so well. That’s part of the supply and demand that we’ve never been able to have.”

Comments of fans attending the early events suggest the Marlins’ offseason moves and apparent commitment to building a winning team have enhanced the attraction of the new ballpark.

“It’s awesome,” Miami resident Alfonso Otero said of his first game experience in the ballpark. I think this atmosphere is going to bring a lot of big crowds this year.”

Tickets already sold ensure that.

Frank Pena, who attended the high school game that opened the park, pinpointed the long-term reality.

“It is a fair-weather city. At the end of the day the Marlins are going to have to producde and they’re going to have to win. But I think people are going to be coming the first year and are going to be giving the Marlins every chance,” Pena said.

Leave it to colorful Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen to put the transformation of the franchise’ situation in perspective.

“It’s like living under the bridge for 20 years and all of a sudden you win the lottery. And the moment you win the lottery you buy a new house. That’s what it was with the Marlins,” Guillen said. “It’s a beautiful ballpark. The players are very excited. Hopefully we play and represent this ballpark the way it looks.”

The ballpark doesn’t guarantee winning, as the most recent major league team to open one showed. The Minnesota Twins sold out Target Field in its debut season in 2010 while winning the American League Central, then fell to an AL-worst 63-99 in 2011. Although they drew more than 3 million and improved their attendance ranking from sixth to fourth in the majors, average attendance was down slightly.

The Marlins prefer to emulate the Philadelphia Phillies, who have played to 204 consecutive sellouts in Citizens Bank Park and have made winning a habit since it opened in 2004.

“Sellouts breed sellouts,” Samson said. “Miami is very much a buzz town. Which is part of the all-in strategy of raising the payroll, signing some free agents and rebranding, relaunching, because it creates that buzz. Now with that buzz you combine it with a team that performs, and then you start building and building. Then hopefully it keeps going.”

A ballpark designed for baseball where fans can watch games in comfort, and the revenue it is already producing, provides a platform to construct success.

Whether Miami will prove to be an enduring baseball town remains to be seen. A new reality is already evident. The days of walking up to the ticket window on game day and having a pick of choice seats are over.

“We have had several people call and try to buy groups [for] one of the Cubs games. We say, ‘No, we’re already sold out.’ People are taken aback,” Samson said. “That’s part of the education of our fans, trying to explain that it’s not like the old days. Things are actually selling out.”

Photo: The crowd at the Marlins' first exhibition game in Marlins Park was limited to 10,000, but much bigger crowds are expected to become the norm under the retractable roof in Little Havana. (Robert Duyos, Sun Sentinel)

Categories: Miami Marlins (32)


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About the author
CRAIG DAVIS In more than 33 years at the Sun Sentinel, Craig Davis has written about a wide variety of sports topics from baseball to yachting, fishing to triathlons, and also worked as a copy editor and page designer. Recently he reported on local sports, including running, swimming, cycling, equestrian and beach volleyball. He enjoys sports as a participant as well as a spectator, is active in the South Florida running scene plays in the curling club at Saveology Iceplex. This blog offers a glimpse at the business side of sports in the interest of enhancing enjoyment of the games and sporting options as a spectator as well as a participant.
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