MIAMI — After Claude Delorme moved to South Florida from Montreal seven years ago, he decided to attend a few events at the Orange Bowl. But Delorme wasn’t there to watch the University of Miami Hurricanes storm the field via their smoke-filled tunnel, wasn’t interested in mega-concerts and certainly didn’t make a beeline for the infamous concession stands.
“I wanted to focus only on the parking,” Delorme said.
It wasn’t a bizarre hobby, but rather research for his role as the Marlins’ vice president of ballpark development. Next season, the Marlins will move to their new ballpark on those old Orange Bowl grounds.
Perhaps it’s true that if you build it, they will come, but there’s no doubt that when they come, they’ll need somewhere to park.
Fans may well have assumed that when the Orange Bowl was razed in 2008, they’d never again have to bargain to park on someone’s lawn. Many fans won’t have to but if you don’t have prime season tickets, you might want to brush up on your haggling skills.
The new ballpark will provide 5,700 parking spaces in four garages and six surface lots, but those spaces will be spoken for by season-ticket holders, players, staff, officials and media members.
Parking will be included in most season tickets, but if you have season seats beyond the baselines or buy single-game tickets, your best options will be to use shuttle services from nearby lots, public transportation or someone’s lawn.
This does not mean a complete return to those exasperating days of yesteryear, of crawling along Northwest Second Street while weighing how far you are from the stadium vs. how many fingers someone standing curbside is holding in the air: “$10! No blocking!”
“We just don’t have the same demands,” Delorme said.
The ballpark has a capacity of 37,000 compared to the Orange Bowl’s 74,476, and the OB had more than 2,000 fewer on-site parking spaces. The Marlins estimate fans will need a total of 11,000 parking spaces for sellouts.
Still, for 81 home games per year, everyone will be faced with some familiar constraints. That’s why the club, along with city and county officials, spent more time dealing with parking than any other issue other than the roof and air conditioning, Delorme said.
They settled on garages five levels high on the north side of the property and six levels high on the south after weighing cost and the amount of time required to empty them after games. The Miami Parking Authority will oversee the garages and be responsible for assuring that all fans can exit within 40 minutes, Delorme said.
“We realize that the experience starts and ends with parking,” Delorme said. “We can have a great game, but if it’s painful to get in, painful to get out, it’s going to affect their decision to come back and that’s why it’s critical we spend a lot of time on this.”
That includes contacting every season-ticket holder to determine if the customer prefers an assigned space on the north or south side based on the preferred routes to and from the ballpark, Delorme said.
As for parking on private lawns, until opening day 2012, there’s no telling how that option will go over with fans unfamiliar with this staple of the Orange Bowl experience. Even those living in proximity of the ballpark, with a chance to profit, seem unsure.
Real estate agent David Heinrich said none of the seven pieces of property he controls in the area is equipped to handle parking.
One resident who lives just north of the ballpark said he used to take in roughly 15 cars on his property but since he lives in the shadow of a stadium garage, he assumed there no longer would be any demand. He and his neighbors are taking a wait-and-see approach, he said.
A couple of blocks southeast of the ballpark, on Northwest 13th Avenue, sits a corner home with ample space and faded signs saying “$5 parking — all day.” Although hardly scientific, a canvass of the neighborhood suggests properties with such space aren’t nearly as plentiful as in the OB heyday of the ’70s and ’80s. And those with large yards tend to have fixed fences with no means for cars to enter.
Development to the north and west of the ballpark further limits fans’ options.
Delorme said fans without on-site parking will be able to take a direct shuttle from park-and-ride locations downtown. The Marlins also might offer shuttles from the Civic Center near the Miami River.
That leaves 2,000 to 3,000 cars parking on private lawns, Delorme estimated. “Where they used to park 12 cars, they’re going to end up parking four or five,” he said.
Boca Raton’s Brian Malvan, who attends approximately 15 games per season, said he assumed on-site parking would be plentiful.
“Little did we know,” he said, adding that he’ll probably use a satellite lot and take a shuttle.
“The lawn thing, I’ve done that in Chicago with Cub games and White Sox games,” Malvan said. “You don’t know if you’re going to get blocked in. People park as many cars as they can for the money. They don’t care if you’re the first one in and last one out.”
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