The Marlins front office cannot stress enough how much this new park and new team characterizes the city of Miami like never before. And on my trip to Miami and Marlins Park this week, I can see exactly why they say that. Believe it or not, I have been a Marlins fan for ten years but Monday was my first ever time in Miami. Visiting the city was an experience like no other.

Combined with my unfamiliarity with the venue, and the crowded, run down region of Little Havana, I did not feel like I was going to a baseball game until I was walking into the ballpark. Approaching the ballpark itself was both confusing an mesmerizing. The sleek new $515 million stadium in Little Havana sticks out like an elephant in a herd of goats.

Little Havana itself is a tightly-packed neighborhood, and at first glance it looks as if stadium traffic would wreak havoc on the area. But both before and after Monday’s contest, police officers controlled the heavy traffic at every street corner within a large radius of the park.

As far as parking goes, if you are willing to shell out some cash, reserving a spot in an on-site garage would be a great option as the official Marlins parking is directly adjacent to the stadium. For my excursion, I bought a parking pass on ParkWhiz.com. The lot we parked in was just a block away from the Orange Bowl Plaza on the left field side of the park. ParkWhiz sells spots in parking lots in public places within a few blocks of the stadium. Don’t worry about walking though the neighborhood at the conclusion of the game because cops are at every street corner, and pedestrians are completely safe.

On Marlins.com, it is advertised that all gates to the park open 90 minutes before the game, and on premium games they open 2 hours before. In the A-Z Guide on the site, it is advertised that:

“Guests who choose to watch batting practice and infield workouts from a seat other than their own may remain until 45 minutes after the gates open.”

Fine, right? Most major league stadiums are like this. But on Monday night, even during batting practice 2 hours before the game, fans were required to have a ticket to any section they wished to enter. I am guessing that this was only for the first few exhibition games in order for the Marlins’ employees and security to get used to the park and the crowds before they start letting fans roam free. So for the regular season, I believe the policy quoted above will hold true.

Other than this unfortunate revelation upon my entrance to the stadium on Monday night, my experience was great at the new park. All the stadium employees were friendly, the food, although I did not have any, looked amazing, and the fans were buzzing with new life. The team store was packed the entire game. The main shop is on the street level, and if you are not planning to watch batting practice I would recommend visiting the store early, well before the game starts. A smaller, but still large team store is on the main concourse around third base.

With the new park, new uniforms, and new players, new fans will flock to the city for baseball. It really did not feel like a Marlins game because the building was overflowing with enthusiasm for the team. Granted, I had never been to a Marlins game before in Miami, so I am certainly not used to running into so many fans. But the fact that there were so many mesmerized me, and made me feel optimistic about the stadium.

This is just the first of a series of posts I am planning to write about the Marlins vs. Yankees exhibition game on April 2nd at Marlins Park.

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