When Dan Marino threw out the ceremonial pitch on Opening Night, there were only 12,000 people inside Marlins Park, according to team president David Samson — and another 6,000 when Jose Fernandez threw the first pitch of the game.
So when the rest of the largest crowd in stadium history showed up late (Samson said there were about 35,000 butts in the seats among the paid crowd of 37,116), it naturally caused a few headaches.
“I really do not like long lines at concessions, but any time you have 30,000 people all trying to eat at once, there will be lines,” Samson said.
“We’re never going to have 35,000 people in here and not have complaints. For soccer, concerts, whatever; it won’t happen. I’m sorry for the fans. I want every fan to have a perfect experience.”
Callers to WQAM’s Joe Rose show on Tuesday morning ripped Samson and the Marlins for ruining their Opening Day experience. Some said they waited in line for food for three to four innings. Others said their food was cold, and concessions ran out of ice. Samson said the Marlins did not run out of food or ice, and that long lines were the result of a late-arriving crowd.
“My view is you want lines to be in the 14- to 18-minute range when the park is full,” Samson said. “There were some lines in the 21- to 25-minute range [on Monday]. The first three innings and the last three innings, the lines were well within range. The middle three, they were above range.”
“Was there someone who didn’t get ice? Was there someone who spent a few minutes with an incompetent cashier? Was there pizza or a hamburger that came out cold? Guaranteed. Were those the people that call in to those talk-radio shows? Guaranteed. But out of 35,000 people in house, how many people had good service and good food? Why would they call in for that?”
Samson said the Marlins had double the usual staffing at all concession stands, as well as extra police to help direct traffic. Samson said an accident near the stadium slowed traffic down before the game, and then multiple lane closures on I-95 along with the conclusion of the Heat game — at the same time as the Monday’s Marlins game — made leaving the park and area tough.
“One of the things we talk to our fans about is don’t just take 836 [the Dolphin Expressway] to 12th Avenue,” Samson said. “We tell people there are so many different ways to get to this ballpark. But everyone was taking the same way. So there was so much more load into the area from two choke points.
“I got a complaint from a guy who said he left his house at 6:30. I said, ‘Sir, I’m so sorry, but I’ve got to tell you it’s Opening Day. You know there’s going to be a crowd — it’s going to be big. He said, ‘Well, I just figured I was going to be able to do it.’ ”
“I feel bad. No one wants to sit in a car and sit in traffic. When I go to a Heat game, we have the best parking spots and best seats in the entire arena. I sit in traffic and that’s it. So you choose to come early, park and eat around there. You can do the same thing here. My wife got here at 5:45 and didn’t have one issue.”
For all the complaints on the radio Tuesday morning, Samson said the Marlins collectively received 47 complaints (via email and call-ins) about Opening Night. He said that’s a much better percentage than when the park opened in 2012 and there were a lot more problems.
“My frustration is that I hate lines and I hate incompetence,” Samson said. “When I’m at Disney, I wait 60 minutes to get on Space Mountain with my son. Am I happy about it? No. But I signed up for it.
“There is a way to do fast pass in this park. We tell you to download the MLB At Park App on the phone and order food.”