Editor’s note: This is part one of a two part series.

I was in San Francisco recently and aside from riding every form of urban transit imaginable (cable car, light rail, subway, bicycle, and commuter rail) I took the opportunity to explore a few of the city’s up-and-coming neighborhoods particularly, South of Market (SOMA), Mission Bay, and South Beach. Of particular interest on this visit was the urban development sprouting up along the China Basin, home of AT&T Ballpark where the San Francisco Giants have played since 2000. AT&T Ballpark and the new Muni Metro transit line which accompanied the stadium have served as catalysts for new urban development.

AT&T Ballpark

Having visited a number of America’s Baseball stadiums, what really strikes me about AT&T Ballpark is its connectivity with the surroundings. From the boardwalk along the famed McCovey Cove to the King Street Walk of Fame, this ballpark was designed to be as much of destination during the off-season as it is when the Giants are in town (Note: when I visited the Giants were on the road). This is a true urban ballpark; warm and inviting with some restaurants and bars within the ballpark opening up to Willie Mays Plaza. The Plaza, of course not only pays homage to one of baseball’s greatest players, but creates a sense of space and grand entrance to the ballpark. It’s important to note that AT&T Ballpark was the first privately financed ballpark in Major League Baseball since 1962. Noticeably absent from the area surrounding the stadium is parking, a good segway into a brief discussion of the transit service that was built to connect the region.

T Third Street Line (Via: RTK Vision)

The T third street line is a modern light-rail system completed in 2007 at a cost of $648 Million. The 5.1 mile transit line is the newest addition to the SFMTA in 50 years and connects the existing Muni Metro system and AT&T Ballpark with some long neglected neighborhoods including Potrero Hill, Bayview, Hunters Point, and Visitacion Valley. Today, new development dots the landscape around the T third street line including the Mission Bay Development, an emerging bioscience hub anchored by the UCSF Mission Bay campus as well as an abundance of dense, urban, development (see: Avalon, Edgewater, and Strata). It’s also important to note that the T third street line was funded largely through the city of San Francisco’s Proposition B, a ½% sales tax levied to support transit projects.

TOD at 4th & King Streets, SOMA, San Francisco (Via: LA Wad)

Visiting AT&T Ballpark (and the surrounding neighborhoods) allowed me to more fully comprehend the shortcomings of the Marlins new Ballpark currently rising in the heart of Little Havana. The new Marlins Stadium is beautiful feat of engineering; it is sleek, shiny, and futuristic, much like Miami itself. Once inside, watching the home team play will be a pleasure, no doubt, but its interaction with the surrounding host community is, like much of Miami’s development, designed with a certain air of indifference for neighboring land uses.

Former Orange Bowl Site; The new Home of the Florida Marlins (Via: Javier Ortega Figueiral)

Constructed at a taxpayer cost of $360M, one would think that we’d be unveiling a trophy piece of civic infrastructure next season; one whose public investment would outweigh the costs by spurring new urban growth, tourism, and economic development in the heart of the Magic City. One would also think that the additional $100M of public investment in transportation infrastructure would be designed to alleviate an already stressed infrastructure rather than exacerbate the problem, right? Wrong. This is Miami, here we spend $100M building four massive, structurally deficient parking garages.

Marlins Ballpark (Via: Thehoorse24)

Having visited AT&T Ballpark and the surrounding neighborhoods it’s difficult not to think of what a $100M down payment for a new transit line akin to the T third street line could have looked like. It could have linked EXISTING parking in downtown or the civic center urban centers with the Ballpark. Think of the opportunity lost to spur new development and provide a reasonable modal alternative to the residents of a largely lower-middle class neighborhood. Think of the pedestrian-scale development that could have risen alongside the stadium instead of parking garages. Imagine paying a nominal $2 transit fare to access the ballpark rather than shelling out upwards of $30 for parking (there are, after all, only 5,700 spaces available).

It’s an interesting juxtaposition in my eyes:

  • AT&T Ballpark was built without a single cent of public financing and is one of the most inclusive, consciously designed stadiums in all of major league baseball. Coupled with a sound investment in sustainable transit, the stadium has spurred ongoing economic development in the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • On the other hand, the heavily subsidized Marlins Ballpark is beginning to look like a full-blown assault on Little Havana, replete with the loss of public open space, parking structures which isolate the stadium from the surrounding community, and a guarantee that at least 81 days of the year the congestion in this area will be a nightmarish hell with little, if any, net positive impact to local businesses.

This is part one of a two part series. Part two will be published over the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

22 Responses to The Marlins Ballpark: Some Late Observations From San Francisco

  1. Steve Hagen says:

    I am not holding my breath to see if the City or County even organizes bus service from any large parking lots within a five mile radius of the park. Indeed, ticket holders should be able to take a bus or drive to satalite
    parking garages and then be wisked off to the
    ballpark…..Bet that idea goes no where…Someone has to pay for pouring all that massive parking garage concrete, all the while campaign contributions flow….


  2. Rima says:

    Gabriel, you strike the needle right on it’s head. When I first saw those large white walls of the parking garage erected on the edge of the new Marlins Stadium, I immediately thought how non-welcoming they were and how those walls kill any kinds of pedestrian traffic on the street they are built on. I still cannot believe there is no Metrorail stop in walking distance to this stadium. I have also seen great baseball stadiums in the US, that foster a sense of community and create a great neighbourhood spot filled with bars and fans - I don’t even like baseball and have already visited Wrigley Field twice! This Marlins spaceship is, to me, just a glorified parking garage. I will most certainly never get out of my way to visit a game there - I can already image the traffic mess prior to game start.


  3. Embarrassing. Go Miami !… from bad to no good.



  4. Brad K. says:

    Amazing post! Why have publicly funded projects in Miami NEVER spurred growth in the surrounding communities? We have had the Old Arena, the AAArena, the PAC, and now the MAM which have done absolutely nothing for the surrounding communities and arguably (as is the situation with the Heat) have had a negative effect on economic development. Could the parking lots be the problem? or the attitude of these entities to maximize profits at any cost? Would really be an interesting analysis..


  5. Eddie Suarez says:

    Great article!! It’s embarrassing we’re so car centric. There’s 500 and whatever bike parking spaces right? Will there be bike facilities to/from the stadium? I bet the bikes will be parked exposed to elements while our cars sit nicely under a covered garage.

    Brad K. I think those project fail to spur growth because of the parking. You sit in your car, park in the adjacent garage, walk inside stadium, return to garage, sit in car, drive home. At which point in this process do you step foot in the surrounding neighborhood?


  6. Brad K. says:

    Yup. Parking has certainly killed my neighborhood. The $40-50 to park flows out of the neighborhood much like the $$ spent in the AA Arena. Not to mention that almost all of the lots are illegal, have little to no security, and are certainly not up to code. But its an all cash business so obviously little enforcement has taken place…


  7. TJ Walker says:

    Great post and all very true. It is indee embarassing that such a beautiful stadium is destroyed by four over priced, and poorly made parking garages. Those $100m could have gone to atleast create a tram line from Govt Center to the ballpark. We need real leadership in our city that believes in a real future for our city outside of the car. This isn’t 1950!

    That said, all isn’t lost we can still fight for a tram line for Govt Center or at the very least express bus service from Govt Center. Knowing MDT, the city and the greedy Marlins though they probably only car about their cars. Quite a shame.


  8. Steve Hagen says:

    This county and Miami will continue to get things wrong as long as they do not value resident input. They only value paid lobbyists and hand picked consultants.

    As much as I disliked Miami Commissioner Winton for some of his votes, he did say something very wise. Something to the effect taht public projects can not get worse with with public input.

    Most everything in this county that involves big bucks, gets cooked up behind closed doors. God save us!!!


  9. Craig says:

    This stadium amasses to nothing more than one of the greatest missed opportunities in Miami’s history. The possibilities for transit, neighborhood integration, urban renewal and economic development were hastily cast aside, presumably to benefit a select few.

    Everyone is short-changed in this deal, in typical Marlins fashion, even the Marlin’s themselves. This stadium sets them up for inevitable failure. It’s a profound travesty that after all the best practices of neighborhood and transit integration seen the spate of relatively recent MLB park construction - Coors Field, San Fran, Camden Yards to name a few - those successful ideas were inexplicably thrown into the toilet.

    The best stadiums are the ones that evoke a sense of place and provide meaningful and real benefits to it’s surrounding area year round. Unfortunately, these impermeable parking structures that form a Soviet bunker around this spaceship will provide nothing for 283 days a year except desolate isolation.

    All on the tax payers dime. It’s the greatest misallocation of resources and taxpayer money in the history of Miami.


  10. Mike Moskos says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t there a prolonged back and forth with local government and this was the best location they could come up with for the stadium? I bet all those parking requirements demanded a bigger space than was available in a more appropriate neighborhood. It is a crime that this stadium is not located directly next to an existing Metrorail stop (or at least a short walk through a neighborhood the average suburbanite deems safe enough to walk through).


  11. Brad K. says:

    Those of us who were involved in fighting the Global Agreement mess will remember that Glen Straub, owner of the old Miami Arena site, proposed the stadium on his property. Centrally located, next to Metrorail and Metro Mover, and all major freeways, the stadium at this location would have save the City of Miami $100 Million as MPA just completed a parking garage on 3rd st. He even offered to finance the construction of the stadium himself!


  12. Thanks for the great conversation all. I think sometimes people forget this is why we write articles here at Transit Miami - to incite discussion on the important topics in South Florida.

    Steve - I wouldn’t hold my breath either.

    Rima - I love the area around Wrigley too! Coors Field has a booming nightlife scene too. I don’t mind the architecture of the stadium so much; but you can’t really see it since it is obscured by those parking garages - what was the point again of such a fancy design with high quality glass and steel materials if the whole thing is going to be obscured by some plain concrete garages? Makes no sense.

    Thanks Brad - Personally I think this is an issue that is endemic to Miami. There is no regard for community spaces so therefore these monumental decisions which transform the urban landscape receive little public input at the planning phase (I assume because everyone is so unbelievably outraged at the public cost of the structures, we forget to demand reasonable concessions in the planning phase…)

    Eddie - we’ve heard they will be including bicycle parking, but at this point, that’s not even a drop in the bucket in my book. Nobody in their right mind is going to bike to the stadium all the roads which lead to and border it are FDOT superhighways. You’re spot on RE: what such abundant parking does to an area.

    TJ Walker - A few streetcars branching out from a downtown loop would make sense. Instead we’re busy chasing down funding for a pipe-dream metrorail expansion north to a stadium that hosts 20 football events a year at best.

    Steve - I struggle on the whole public input discussion. As an urban planner, I understand why its necessary but the role of public input is one that needs to be clarified.

    Craig - spot on.

    Mike - There was. That is the sad part. As Brad mentioned, Glen Straub offered to construct a stadium on the old Arena site. There was also another Idea to build it at Gov Center - this would have entailed moving a planned Children’s Courthouse to another site and eliminating the surface parking lot just north of the Stephen P. Clarke Center (Gasp! not the surface parking!)


  13. M says:

    I have a question for Brad K. Why would the city or county not want to consider the former Miami Arena site? If it would save money and the owner was willing to help finance it, why not? That site just seems perfectly logical to me.

    Secondly, from what I’ve read or heard, it seems like they wanted the new stadium to spur development. I think the problem is that people here truly believe that Miami is not a transit city and that we will always be a car city. Thus, all new construction seems to require a ton of parking. This mentality is a self-fulfilling prophecy in that we will always be a car city, if that’s what we plan for a build.

    The last point I want to make is that last night I was riding my bike pas the New World Symphony on the Beach and I noticed so many people in the public park space next to it. This is an example of a big project that did connect with its surrounds and better the community (I will also add that the symphony did come with a bunch of parking garages on one side!).


  14. Brad K. says:

    In my opinion by the time Straub offered the old Arena site, there were too many interested parties (Marlins, Musuems, Manny Diaz, Miami World Center, DDA, Port Tunnel, $100 Million for Spence Jones) who stood to benefit. Straub’s proposal obviously makes the most sense but it would have threatened all of the deals that had been made behind closed doors for years by the lobbyists. Also certain parties have eyes on that site for a billion dollar Downtown Convention Center.


  15. TJ Walker says:

    I agree that the old Miami Arena site would have been perfect, but logistically speaking, would it even work on such a small site? The old arena was smaller than the ballpark under construction now. Then there’s also the additional parking garages the Marlins will ask for because god forbid they push for transit or pay for something themselves.

    That said, the ballpark is where it is and now we need to find a way to better integrate into Little Havana (isn’t this always the case here?) Build now, fix later.

    As atrocious as the garages are, I can stand them if they have full 360 ground floor retail, because at least it contributes to the urban fabric. We can work with that. We can now also work to push a tram line from Governmenr Center to the stadium along Flagler which (the 11 line) is already one of the busiest routes in the city. We already knows the benefits of a tram line. This is where we can truly bring change.

    Question is where are our politicians advocating for public space, squares, transit- things that’ll really help the lives of Little Havana’s working class, not parking garages for the suburbanites. Did they not think of how all the “urban professionals” that choose to have no cars in Brickell, South Beach, Downtown, Omni, etc are going to get to this stadium? They’re completely ignoring the city’s fastest growing demographic, and the one that’s bringing the most change and capital to the city- the urban dweller.

    Let’s push to be a class A trendsetter in urban planning and development, instead of always playing catch-up for doing things half-ass.


  16. B says:

    Not only are there no transit improvements, but I haven’t noticed any roadway improvements either. 12th ave. near the Dolphin is already very congested, so what’s going to happen if you really do get 5000 additional cars trying to get off the Dolphin and in to the garages? It’s not going to be pretty… I can also see street parking being a problem for locals-they’re probably going to need a resident permit system like in South Beach. If I lived in Little Havana now, I would not be happy!


  17. Mike Moskos says:

    Off topic: I want to add something to what TJ said about the growing population of carless urban professionals. These are the residents the city needs to encourage most. As anyone who listens to the Smart Towns podcast (or reads their website) knows, dense neighborhoods generate the most property tax revenue while costing the city the least in terms of providing services. Our suburban development will be the source of our bankruptcy as we discover that while the developers built out the infrastructure, the public is on the hook for all maintenance/re-building. Those $100M parking garages are just a minuscule cost to taxpayers for our life-sucking suburban lifestyle.


  18. Geoffrey Bash says:

    The “Public” would have ensured a much more viable funding deal and would have placed the stadium in a “logical” location. The Public has a great deal more sense than the creators of this great disaster. Every county commissioner who supported it should face re-call.

    What is the real cost to tax payers and use of tourist tax dollars over the term of the loans that could (should) have been spent on a revenue generating project like a world class convention center or other brilliant idea.

    Isn’t Grace Solares & Elvis Cruz’lawsuit still pending? What could possibly be gained by a victory at this point?


  19. Geoffrey Bash says:

    Until we change the leadership of Miami-Dade County, we will continue to have more of the same….”Build now - Fix later” as TJ states. Oh, and let’s not forget “Ignore the Public”.

    We need to make the “Vision for Miami-Dade” a hot topic in every politician’s campaign going forward.


  20. Iggy says:

    If you don’t like the people you’ve placed in office then make an effort to vote them out.Cause the same guy from my old district is still there almost 20 years now. As for going to the games in the future. Set an example for others by using Public Transit and tell others and others how you got to the game.Educate your fellow Miamians. They are many many ways to get to the Ballpark. Future plans called for a Metro Line running from the InterModal Transportation Hub next to MIA east along the Dolphin and turning to the south an along NW 7st into Downtown. Not sure if the plans are still up to view. I will see if they are. When I went to Hurricane games. I would drive 10 min’s to Dadeland North and jump on the Metro to Culmer Station get off and ride a shuttle to the Orange Bowl and back home. The City, County, Fans and Marlins I’m sure are doing there best to make things the best for the fans and community to not suffer like they have at Joe Robbie. They can’t afford to lose the respect of the community with such a project. There is a guy who’s added some nice plans for green space and ideas with plans and all with some of his ideas and ideas taken from Miami 21. It’s on Soflamarlins.com under Marlins Ballpark then Ballpark Area Development. As he states he’s not even living in Miami as I and we care about are home town. I hope you all look at the good and make a difference as I try to do when I visit my hometown and plant native plants in my old neighborhood and pick up trash to recycle. Good Luck to you all and I hope you help the area get better as I will try a few times next season an many more in the future.


  21. dave says:

    Poor planning all around. How do they expect me to get there afterwork on a weekday evening from Broward? Guess I’ll wait for the sunday games…


  22. Daniel says:

    I was told at the Select-a-Seat VIP tour today that they may run a shuttle bus from Civic Center on game nights. I walked it. It’s exactly one mile, just over 20 minutes. Too far for most people.


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