The Miami Herald
Posted on Sun, Jul. 24, 2011
Marlins’ new stadium brings jobs, new business opportunities
Barry Jackson – bjackson@MiamiHerald.com
Construction of the Marlins’ dazzling new palace has entered the late innings now, a smidgen over three-quarters complete.
The 8,300-ton retractable roof is secured. Most of the seats, nearly all painted blue, are firmly in place. The 51-foot tall Jumbotron scoreboard towers over right field.
By September, the exterior skin of the stadium will be finished. So will the installation of the thermoplastic white membrane that will cover the roof. By January, televisions and furniture will be installed. By February, the playing surface will be laid down and fish will be frolicking inside two 24-foot aquariums on each side of home plate. And by March, the ballpark will be hosting events, including at least one Marlins spring training game.
“We’re happy — we’re on schedule and on budget,” team president David Samson said. “We need to get through this hurricane season.”
When the project is done, the ballpark in Little Havana, on the site of the old Orange Bowl, will be more than just a playpen for our Major League Baseball team and an entertainment destination for fans.
It will also a business hub, directly or indirectly creating more than 2,000 jobs and generating tens of millions in annual revenue for the team.
Here’s how the stadium — which is being financed through $460 million in public money and $155 million from the Marlins — gets down to business:
Through late May — the time of the Marlins’ most recent analysis — the project had employed 3,807 workers, nearly all of whom have been on assignment multiple days or weeks. About 700 are working on construction now, about 200 less than during the height of heavy lifting.
As part of the deal with Miami-Dade County, the Marlins assured that many of those workers would be South Florida residents. Claude Delorme, the Marlins’ executive vice president of ballpark development, said only 4 percent of the workers have come from out of state. Sixty percent are from Miami-Dade, and of those, 30 percent are from Miami.
Delorme said 835 companies have been associated with the project, and 52 percent of those are based in Miami-Dade. That far surpasses the team’s goal of 35 percent, he said.
The Marlins also assured local government that the team would use small local businesses for various projects during construction. Delorme said nearly $70 million of work has gone to small businesses in Miami-Dade — $26.5 million ahead of projections.
But what kind of job creation will there be when the stadium opens?
“You’re getting close to 1,800 to 2,000 people per game,” Delorme said. That includes 1,200 workers on the food services side, about 400 on stadium operations (everything from security to grounds-crew to ushers), a cleaning staff of about 60, another 80 people involved with parking and dozens of others for ancillary jobs. obviously, a lot of those job are simply being shifted from Sun Life Stadium to the new ball park.
“You don’t realize until you start breaking it down that there are that many people associated with an event,” Delorme said.
The Marlins will retain some employees who work games at Sun Life Stadium, including the public address announcer and the organ player. Some members of the Marlins’ event and concessions staffs want jobs at the new ballpark “and we would welcome that,” Delorme said. But others will remain sole employees of Sun Life Stadium.
Meanwhile, some of the on-site workers at the new ballpark hope their temporary jobs become permanent ones. “I’m going to apply for a job in stadium security,’’ said Hialeah resident Leonel Robert, 61, whose temporary gig involves making sure everyone entering the Marlins’ new stadium sales office has proper clearance.
Robert worries about his future. He’s a structural designer by trade but hasn’t had a project since 2008.
“I’ve been working some in security, collecting unemployment,’’ he said. “I’m trying to survive this big mess. You’re not picky. Whatever the Marlins give me, I would be interested.’’
Rafmil Lima, 23, of Hialeah hopes the stadium jump-starts his portable food cart business. He launched his Mr. Famous Food Truck two months ago and parked it on the stadium perimeter. He said about 50 people involved in the project — mostly construction workers and supervisors — have been buying his food daily, including burgers, churrasco, and his waffles/steak/eggs/ham breakfast combo for $7.99.
“I’m hoping to stay when the stadium opens,” he said. “I’m going to talk to the Marlins about it.’’
Many others may find jobs at restaurants and other stand-alone businesses just outside the stadium. (More on that later.)
The Marlins have been selling full-season tickets for nearly a year; Samson said the team is ahead of expectations at this point but declined to release numbers. The team’s internal projections are to sell at least 15,000 season tickets.
The Marlins are more specific about premium seat sales, and those numbers have been encouraging.
All of the 379 Diamond Club seats behind home plate have sold out. Thirty of the 296 seats in the Dugout Club remain; those seats are behind the first- and third-base lines.
Of the 39 suites that will be sold on a season basis, only 10 remain unsold: nine Legends suites behind home plate (selling for $250,000 for the entire season and all events in the ballpark except postseason play and any potential All-Star Game) and one MVP suite down the first base side (priced at $150,000).
Two other suites are partially sold — in those areas, fans can buy tickets in increments of two and share the suite with others. Those are also available on a season-ticket-only basis and cost $20,000 per seat, including food and parking.
The Marlins will make eight suites available on an individual-game basis. Six will be party suites down the first-base line, seating 24 people, with the cost $100 per person including food and parking. The other two will be priced at approximately $60 per person, one beyond left field that will seat 116 and one beyond right field that will seat 60.
The stadium’s capacity of 37,200 (including some standing-room seats) will be the lowest in Major League Baseball. Of the non-standing room seats, 22,000 are in the lower bowl, 4,400 in the second level and 10,000 in the upper level.
Partial-game ticket packages will go on sale in November and individual-game tickets in February.
Though many season-ticket holders are enticed by the lure of experiencing the new ballpark, Miami resident Marc Hopkins had other motivation for buying two full season tickets for the first time.
“I have an expensive car, and I wanted to have a guaranteed parking space,” said Hopkins, who owned partial season packages the past two years. “And also, I was hoping the demand would be such that I can sell the tickets that I don’t use on StubHub. I go north, to Saratoga Springs, during the summer, so I’m not in town for a lot of the games.
“I thought I was being clever when I bought them, but I’m worried now. I’m paying $70 apiece per game for each ticket — higher than I expected — and I’d be surprised if I make my money back.’’
The Marlins will have 5,700 parking spaces on site — 4,700 combined in four garages and 1,000 on six surface lots. Fans who buy premium seats or season tickets inside the bases will be guaranteed a parking space, Delorme said. Everyone else, including individual game ticket buyers, likely will need to park elsewhere.
Parking has been included in the ticket prices for fans with those guaranteed spots, with the Marlins valuing those spaces at $10 to $15 per game.
For each of the next 15 years, the Marlins must write a check to the city of Miami to cover the cost of the 5,700 spaces at slightly more than $10 a spot.
“We should be able to generate a little bit of money from parking,” Delorme said. But he said parking won’t be a windfall for the team “because we didn’t want to charge $35 or $40 a space.”
The city is paying about $75 million to build the garages — about three-quarters of its contributions to the $615 million project. Miami-Dade County is providing another $359 million in tourist taxes and bond money.
Those with access to the 5,700 parking spaces won’t have assigned spots, but premium seat holders likely will be assigned a specific garage or lot. The Marlins say they will try to accommodate fans by encouraging them to park in garages or lots closest to the roads they will use after games.
Last month, hundreds of hairline cracks appeared on support beams along exterior walls of the four garages, but officials say they will be repaired in time for the stadium’s opening.
So what about the fans who don’t have access to the on-site garages and lots? Where will they park?
Delorme mentioned lots near the Miami River, in front of peoples’ homes (where many University of Miami football fans parked when the Hurricanes played there) and private lots close to the ballpark.
“The city is looking at doing a trolley service,” Delorme said. “And we’re talking about doing a direct shuttle from the Culmer Center less than a mile from the ballpark, as well as the government center, and just north of the Miami River. There are 2,000 spaces on the other side of the river.”
Homeowners near the stadium are excited about the prospect of making extra money by charging fans to park on their lawn. “We charged $20 a car for Hurricanes games when they played here, and we could make as much as $200 a day,” said Pablo Blanco, 20, who lives with his parents and five brothers in a home a block from the stadium. “We’ll make a lot with the Marlins, and it will help us a lot.’’
The Marlins struck a deal with concessionaire Levy Restaurants, with the Marlins retaining the revenue from food and beverage sales. Levy and the Marlins will jointly craft the menu.
The stadium’s 36 concession stands will include not only regular ballpark fare (hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers, etc.) but also Cuban coffee, pork sandwiches and sushi. There will also be a Mexican food stand and a kosher food stand.
A Taste of Miami food court on the promenade level beyond left field will include Cuban sandwiches and paella and other dishes “that are unique to this market,’’ Delorme said, adding that he expects “people would say, ‘I want to buy a Cuban sandwich and I’m willing to go beyond the third-base line to go there.’ ”
The stadium also will feature 40 portable concession areas and 11 bars, including one behind left field that Delorme said will be especially popular because of its location overlooking the field. Levy president and CEO Andy Lansing, whose company has deals with six other major-league parks, said Levy likes to “create a dining experience that is tailored to the taste of local fans. We enjoy creating menus with great variety and regional flavors and the rich and diverse culture of South Florida is a true inspiration for us.’’
The Marlins envision a revitalized neighborhood with retail stores and restaurants. As many as five stand-alone businesses, open year-round, could be operating by March, Delorme said. All will be in the west plaza on the south side, an area which is the size of 3 ½ football fields.
The Marlins will provide music and entertainment in the plaza area on game days and expect fans will mingle there before, during and after games. A video board in the west plaza will broadcast the game live.
The Marlins declined to identify any of the businesses because negotiations are ongoing. But one of them will be a chain sports bar with a diverse menu, situated just underneath the first-base entrance under the helix.
Another will be a shop “more into dessert, serving Cuban pastries and sandwiches,” Delorme said. “Another will have food specialty items.” Of the two others being negotiated, one would be a retail store.
Each of those businesses will share revenue with the Marlins. The west plaza also will feature a Marlins merchandise store, which will be operated by the team.
Other businesses around the stadium also expect a boost.
“We would get 50 more customers on days the Hurricanes played at the Orange Bowl, and our business has gone down since the Orange Bowl was torn down,” said Abel Hernandez, who owns Pan American Cafeteria, two blocks from the new ballpark. “I’m praying it will do good. I’m optimistic.”
The county will own the stadium, and the Marlins’ $2 million annual lease payments will be applied against their debt to the county. The Marlins will keep revenue from all advertising in the ballpark — a major change from Sun Life Stadium, where the team has played since its birth in 1993.
Teams in the largest markets, such as New York, can gross more than $50 million or $60 million in sponsorships and advertising each season. The Marlins can expect to make more than $20 million annually in stadium sponsorships and ad sales, said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based SportsCorp, a business consulting firm that has been involved in development of more than two dozen sports facilities, including the new Yankee Stadium.
“That will be higher than Pittsburgh and Kansas City and some other teams but much less than the biggest teams,’’ he said.
The team said it is close to forging a ballpark naming rights deal, which Ganis said should generate $6 million or so a year. Besides overall naming rights, the Marlins also are selling naming rights to four stadium quadrants.
Others sponsorships will be sold for foul poles, signage behind home plate and near the bullpens and 954 feet of ribbon boards, as well as other locations.
Ganis said professional teams are finding new and unusual places to place ads. “I find it obtrusive in front of urinals and inside the door of stalls,” he said. Delorme said the Marlins are considering both of those locations for ads, as well as the front of steps in the stands behind home plate, an area visible to television viewers.
“The strangest place” for advertising, Delorme said, “will likely be inside the aquariums on either side of home plate. It will be discreet but visible during a close-up” during game telecasts.
The Marlins are eager to book non-baseball events but will face competition from Sun Life Stadium, AmericanAirlines Arena, BankAtlantic Center and several other venues.
The Marlins plan to pursue boxing matches, international soccer and concerts. “We also want to do trade shows — you have a lot of space to do that,” Delorme said. “Home shows, car shows, boat shows, truck and tractor shows, concerts. U2 will always go to Sun Life, and other concerts are defined for arena settings. We’ll be in between those two. But in 2012, the focus will be on baseball.’’
Mike Sophia, executive director of the Miami-Dade sports commission, said he and the Marlins also are interested in bidding for NCAA Tournament basketball games. He said in order to be eligible, the ballpark would need to host at least one basketball game before that, perhaps involving the University of Miami or FIU.
He said the NCAA has begun using larger venues for regional semifinals and finals, and the Marlins’ ballpark might have a better chance of landing games than 19,600-seat AmericanAirlines Arena, which hosted NCAA Tournament first- and second-round games in 2009.
The Marlins will schedule at least one college baseball game and a few spring training games (including one against the Yankees) at the ballpark next March. The Marlins are tentatively scheduled to play the St. Louis Cardinals on April 4 in the first regular season game in the stadium.
Also, the Marlins will bid for games in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and hope to be awarded the 2015 All-Star Game.
© 2011 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.