by Ryan of The Sportmeisters
So, after years of debate, the Florida Marlins are leaving their current home at Dolphins Stadium and are finally getting their own retractable roof stadium in Miami. Here’s the thing: If people don’t go now, what makes a new stadium any different?
The Marlins (who will become the Miami Marlins upon completion) have finished no better than 13th out of 16 teams in National League attendance since 1998, even finishing 15th during their World Series run in 2003. The team has averaged under 17,000 fans per game each of the last three years, including a Major League worst 16,688 in 2008.
The Marlins claim the lack of attendance is based on the hot and rainy summers, and having the retractable roof stadium should help the team reach what is expected to be 2,000,000-plus people for at least the next seven seasons. They cite this as being able to help their miniscule payroll.
The problem is, outside of the extremely hard-core fans (all 50 of them, including the sadly delusional Sportmeister Derek), the Marlins do not have many name-brand players, as they dump stars like Miguel Cabrera and Josh Beckett in favor of cheaper labor. If the Marlins can’t afford a star right now, they won’t put the butts in the seats, and they will still have the worst attendance in baseball. Waiting for the fans to come to give them the revenue for a big-name body is not a strategy many fans will support.
The cost of the new stadium, located where the Orange Bowl once was, is expected to be in the $515 million range. Funding from this includes a $35 million loan from Miami-Dade County. In the current downhill economy, is putting an exorbitant amount of money into a stadium for a team that fans don’t watch a smart investment?
MLB supported the new stadium, using the argument that the city of Miami does not want to be the only major city without a baseball team. That is a weak argument, considering the city does attend sporting events, supporting both the Miami Dolphins and Miami Heat.
In 2003, when the Florida Marlins won their second World Series, they averaged 16,089 fans a game in a stadium big enough for 35,521 people. In 2007, when the Miami Dolphins had the worst record in the National Football League at 1-15, they still finished in eighth place in attendance, with an average of 72,229. This was good enough for the top half of the NFL.
Also in 2007, the Miami Heat had the worst record in the National Basketball Association at 15-67. They still brought in 19,463 fans a game, in an arena capped at 19,600. If you do the math, the Heat filled their arena to 99.3 percent capacity. The Dolphins filled Dolphins Stadium to 96.3 percent capacity. The Florida Marlins only filled their stadium to 45.3 percent, less than half of the capacity.
The new Marlins Stadium plans on seating 37,000, which is even more than their current location, and is still the third smallest ballpark in Major League Baseball. If the fans didn’t go at the team’s best, but flocked to the other Miami sports at their worst, what expectation can there legitimately be that fans will want to see the Marlins?
With today’s struggling economy, MLB should cut their losses, fold up the Marlins, and leave the fans to root for the Dolphins and Heat. It would finally answer the age-old question: If the Marlins leave Miami, would anyone really care?