MIAMI — Marlins' Josh Johnson didn't like pitching at Sun Life Stadium.
"It's hard whenever you can hear the opposing team's bullpen phone during the game," said Johnson, the team's No. 1 starting pitcher. "You can hear it ring. It's not fun. You almost looked forward to being on the road.
"I can definitely see why people didn't want to go. I wouldn't want to take my kids out there if it's raining and that hot every single night. But things have changed. We're in a different situation now."
The Marlins are set to officially open Marlins Park when they host the St. Louis Cardinals on April 4.
While most of the new ballparks around the country have a definite retro feel, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria wanted his $515 million, 37,000-seat ballpark to reflect the city of Miami.
"It's about glass, field, concrete, paint and all of it fitting into the landscape," Loria recently told reporters. "It's mostly about form and function meeting each other and working together. I did not want to see us build a building that was a concrete mass. It had to be something that would fit into Miami's plans, a beautiful building going forward, great contemporary architecture."
The stadium — which sits on the site of the old Orange Bowl in Little Havana — features a retractable roof, two large aquariums behind home plate and a pool in left field. Also, large panels in left field wall can be retracted to reveal a view of the Miami skyline.
"It's unbelievable," new shortstop Jose Reyes said. "I can't wait to get there and start the season already."
Since the team's inception in 1993, the Marlins played their home games at Sun Life Stadium, a football stadium that also is home to the Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes. The stadium had poor sight lines for baseball and no roof, leaving fans unprotected against the heat and rain.
The Marlins tried to parlay their 2003 World Series championship into a new building, but faced often contentious negotiations with the Miami-Dade County officials. That led to numerous years of teams with a low payroll and little fan support. Loria even met with officials in San Antonio, Texas and threatened to move the team there.
It wasn't until March 19, 2009 that Miami commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the building of the stadium and construction began that July.
According to the construction agreement, the Marlins contributed approximately $154 million of the projects' total cost. Miami-Dade ($347.5 million, approximately $297 million coming from tourist taxes) and the city of Miami ($13.5 million) contributed $360 million.
"It's a beautiful park," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I think it's a great thing to have this ballpark here for a lot of reasons. Hopefully we play and represent this ballpark. I think it's very fun, it's very exciting. It's very nice."
Reyes got his first look at the unfinished park when the Marlins were courting him as a free agent in November. Although no sod had been laid and there was still plenty of work to be done, Reyes got a glimpse of what could be.
"I saw everything before I signed," Reyes said. "It was a big part of the reason why I came here. The new stadium with the roof; I know the weather here is crazy sometimes with the rain and it gets hot, but the situation with the roof and the team that's why I made the decision to come here."
Things to know about Marlins Park
Location: 501 Marlins Way, Miami
Web Site: miamimarlins.com
Tickets: 877-MARLINS (627-5467)
Opening Day: 7:05 p.m. April 4 against the St. Louis Cardinals
Cost/Seating: $515 million/37,000 seats
To Marlins Park (501 Marlins Way, Miami): Take Interstate 95 South to Florida State Road 836 West. Exit at NW 12th Avenue and turn left at light. Cross over 12th Avenue Bridge and turn right at first light (NW 7th Street). Continue on NW 7th Street and turn Left on NW 14th Avenue
Approximate Mileage/Time to Marlins Park from:
Vero Beach at S.R. 60 and I-95: 145 miles/2 hours, 36 minutes
Fort Pierce at S.R. 70 and I-95: 133 miles/2 hours, 21 minutes
Stuart at Kanner Highway and I-95: 100 miles/1 hour, 46 minutes
The distance to the foul pole in right field is 334 feet. Its 386 in left center, 422 to straightaway center, 392 to right center and 335 down the right field line.
There are four main entrances into the new park: Home Plate (H northwest corner), First Base (1 southwest), Center Field (2 east), Third Base (3 north east).
Retractable roof: The roof can open and close in approximately 14 minutes. When it's closed, the temperature inside the stadium will be 75 degrees. The Marlins expect the roof to be closed for 70 of 81 games.
Outfield glass panel: When opened, the glass panels in left field reveal a view of the Miami skyline.
360-degree Promenade level: The open concourse will allow fans to see the field even while waiting in line for food.
Backstop: Two aquariums holding a combined total of 1,050 gallons of water will be behind
home plate. The glass is bulletproof, which will protect the fish from foul balls or other objects.
Home Run Statue: The bright-colored landmark in center field will light up after each Marlins home run. The statue features jumping marlins, flamingoes and a water cannon.
The Clevelander: The South Beach landmark will have a spot inside the park beside the Marlins bullpen. Features include classic Clevelander food selections, dancers, body painting and DJs.
Connected: Wifi Internet service is available throughout the entire stadium. Fans also can order food from their seats using a smartphone app and be notified when the food is ready to be picked up.
Pool: A left-field area swimming pool is available for purchase by groups on a per-game basis.
Art: The main entrance features art from Spanish artist Joan Miro. Other artists featured around the stadium include Roy Lichtenstein and Kenny Scharf.
A sampling of foods/prices at the new park: $3.75 children's hot dog combo platter, $4 cracker jacks, $4.50 soda, $5 peanuts, $6 hot dog, $7 Papo Liega y Pon roasted pork sandwich, $8 domestic draft beer, $8.50 single patty buger, $9 imported draft beer, $9.50 double patty burger, $10 Latin American Grill Cuban sandwich, $12 8-inch pepperoni pizza, $12 (fish, chicken or steak) tacos, $13 Miami shrimp burger, $14 tenderloin BLT.
Season ticket packages: Range from $800 (Vista Reserved B) to $20,000 (Hall of Fame Club)
Single game prices: Range from $17 (Vista Reserved B — far corners in left and right field) to $500 (Diamond Club D — behind home plate). Tickets for the Clevelander are $75
Additional ticket packages: Include 40-game plans (half season), 20-game plans, weekend plans and suite rentals
There are four parking structures and six surface lots on the property. Fans are encouraged to pre-purchase parking spots at miami.marlins.mlb.com/mia/ticketing/parking.jsp. Parking cost $15 per vehicle.
OPENING NIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Fans are encouraged to be in their seats no later than 6:15 p.m. for the inaugural Opening Night pregame ceremonies.
A special program will be performed under the direction of 19 time Grammy award winning producer and Miami resident Emilio Estefan.
Pregame ceremonies will include a video and on-field tribute to Miami, full team lineups for the Marlins and Cardinals, the debut of the new Marlins theme song — "Marlins Tonight" — musician Jose Feliciano performing the national anthem, a fireworks spectacular, a flyover with four F-16s from Homestead Air Force Base and more.