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After finishing last in the NL in attendance each of the past seven years, the Marlins have had brisk ticket sales, and Loria said he’s certain fans will continue to come as the season progresses. He said the Marlins enjoyed good attendance in their first season, and again in 1997 and 2003 when they won the World Series.

“They come when they’re given a good club,” Loria said. “And we’ve given them a very good club this year. It’s a team where I expect us to be there in the end.”

Selig is also optimistic about the Marlins’ long-term future.

“They’ve got potential they never had before,” he said.

New manager Ozzie Guillen said attendance ultimately will depend on the team.

“To keep people excited, we’ve got to win games,” Guillen said. “That’s how you keep the excitement in any city, with any ballpark.”

In anticipation of bigger crowds, the Marlins nearly doubled their payroll this season to more than $100 million, and they expect to contend for the NL East title.

Regardless of the team record, the ballpark roof should make baseball more appealing in South Florida. Steamy weather and the frequent threat of rain made baseball outdoors a tough sell, Loria said.

“It’s impossible to play baseball in Miami in the summer,” he said.

Selig described the new ballpark as distinctive. Among its unique features is a colorful home-run sculpture beyond the center field wall, which some have called gaudy or worse.

The 73-foot-tall art work commissioned by Loria, a New York art dealer, springs into motion when a Marlins player homers, with blue marlins diving into splashing water.

“It’s a statement about Miami,” Loria said. “It’s a lot of things going on at once. It’s just meant to make you smile while the local hero is running around the bases, hopefully with people in front of him.”

Not all of Loria’s players like the sculpture. When left-hander Mark Buehrle was asked about it, he jokingly looked over his shoulder.

“Is Jeffrey around here?” Buehrle said with a smile. “I prefer not to comment.”

Said Guillen: “Mr. Loria made it. It’s beautiful.”