“In the beginning it was amazing,” Garcia said. “But I was expecting something bigger. Everybody was.”
Despite the decline, Garcia said he intends to stick it out, hope for better days, and bank on other events — such as concerts and soccer games — to help support his business.
“I believe in the stadium,” he said.
Chris Smith, a baseball fan from Fort Lauderdale, said he has no major complaints with the new ballpark and far prefers it to Sun Life Stadium, the Marlins’ former home.
“It’s a little farther to travel from Fort Lauderdale,” Smith said. “But it’s definitely worth it. The atmosphere is so much more pleasant to be in. It actually feels like a ballpark, as opposed to a football stadium.
“But I hope they get a few more people in and improve next season and get the place jumping a little bit more.”
Smith said he attended about four games and took advantage of deeply discounted seats that became available on the secondary market.
“When you can get tickets for $1 each from Stubhub, I don’t mind paying $8 for a beer,” he said.
Marlins Park wasn’t without glitches.
Samson acknowledged that the cooling system is a work in progress, as some seats located near the air vents can be unbearably chilly. The sound system is not crystal clear in some reaches of the ballpark, making it difficult to understand.
A leaky roof at the start of the season was fixed. The turf on the playing field was patchy, and club officials are looking into new strains of grass to see what grows best.
“I think it’s a beauty. Now the team has to do their part because government cannot bring people to the ballpark,” said Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado.
“I never believed the promises of ‘if you build it they will come.’ Once you see it once and your curiosity is done, if your team is not winning, it’s difficult to go. I just hope that they have a better season [next year].”
But Samson said positives at the new ballpark far outweighed the negatives.
The Clevelander club in left field was a big hit, he said. So was the Bobblehead Museum on the main concourse, as well as the Home Run Sculpture in left center. Over time, the parking hassles that plagued the ballpark at the start of the season subsided as fans got to know their way around.
The two most popular concession stand items? According to Samson, pizza and chicken tenders.
Samson said that, overall, he is pleased with the first season.
“We are happy, but not satisfied,” Samson said. “Clearly it’s a different world than we had at Sun Life. The main thing is this ballpark will last much longer than the disappointment of the season.”