The Miami Marlins won county permission on Tuesday to move its home run sculpture out of Marlins Park to the plaza outside, giving Derek Jeter a key win in his efforts to erase the legacy of former owner Jeffrey Loria.
The sculptor behind “Homer,” New York’s Red Grooms, opposed moving the seven-story piece of public art, saying he designed it under a $2.5 million contract with Miami-Dade County specifically for its home in center field. The sculpture whirrs to life whenever the Marlins hit a home run, sending mechanical Marlins spinning during a cycle timed to end once the typical base runner makes it to home plate.
After buying the team with partners from Loria last year for $1.2 billion, Jeter sent word he wasn’t a fan of the county-owned sculpture and wanted it gone. The new Marlins front office has plans for a multi-story spectator area there designed for a new standing-room-only ticket that will sell for as little as $10. In its new location outside, “Homer” will still turn on for home runs, as well as at the end of every home win and every day at 3:05 p.m., an homage to Miami’s original area code.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a longtime Loria foe, endorsed Jeter’s plan to move “Homer.” But with Grooms against it, the relocation got complicated. An artist has a right to “disavow” a work if it’s moved, and Grooms urged county officials not to allow his sculpture to be dispatched to a new home.
To get around the artist’s opposition, the Marlins promised to pay Miami-Dade up to $2.5 million if Grooms opts to take his name off the work and render it worthless on the art market. The Marlins were required to pay for county-owned public art under its contract to build the county-owned stadium, which opened in 2012.
Moving the Grooms art required approval from the county’s Art in Public Places board, which on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the Marlins plan. “Homer” will be the centerpiece of a new art walk the Marlins plan for outside the stadium. It will be secured by a new eight-foot fence the team plans to erect around the stadium, Marlins executives said Tuesday.
Chip Bowers, president of business operations for the Marlins, made his pitch before the arts board Tuesday. He said the plan is to dismantle the sculpture as quickly as possible. He said the team needs the space cleared to get construction started on the new spectator area in order for it to be open for Opening Day next spring. The debut of “Homer” in its new open-air home will take longer.
“I think we’d be hard-pressed to get it there by Opening Day,” he said.