It didn't take long for a brand-new ballpark to start looking like the place the Miami Marlins used to call home.
Because of weak attendance at Marlins Park, the club announced Tuesday it will be closing the upper deck for several upcoming home dates. The closure would reduce stadium capacity from 37,442 to about 27,000, which still is more than enough to accomodate the average number of tickets distributed at home games: 18,864, fourth-smallest in Major League Baseball. The amount of people who actually show up for the game is something less than that.
Columnist Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald has the details:
The upper bowl will be closed for six dates in the team’s nine-game homestand that begins next Tuesday. Fans can sit only in the lower bowl for games May 14-16 against Cincinnati and May 20-22 against Philadelphia. The upper bowl will remain open for May 17-19 games against Arizona.
It's not that Diamondbacks fans travel better than those of the Phillies or Reds, but that series comes on a Friday-Sunday, when attendance usually is higher across the league.
Fewer than 500 seats in the upper deck are season tickets, anyway, so those folks will be moved to the lower bowl for affected games. What if they don't want to be moved? Oh, you don't want to get into an argument with the Marlins over being moved.
Built for $634 million and opened just a year ago, Marlins Park averaged 27,401 fans in 2012, though the team says only about 17,000 showed for games. As payroll-cutting measures have continued and the quality of the team's play has worsened, a strong demand just doesn't exist. So why not close the upper tank, like they did at Sun Life Stadium, if there's not enough people? It's embarrassing either way. At least this makes sense from a financial standpoint.
Unless advance ticket sales perk up, expect the team to do this going forward. Team spokesman P.J. Loyello says it's better this way:
Closing the upper bowl some games “will give an overall better fan experience,” Loyello said, adding from a standpoint of concessions, restrooms and other services, “it will be better for fans” than if they were scattered in a larger area.
The Marlins began this approach during their home stand that was completed last week. They did not close off the upper deck for any home games last season, their first in Marlins Park.
The closing of the upper bowl for some games will mean fewer hours for some stadium employees, but none will lose their jobs, Loyello said.
But for how long?