February 14, 2009
Perhaps they shouldn't have scheduled the big vote on the Miami baseball stadium financing plan for Friday the 13th. The Florida Marlins were hoping to get final approval for their ballpark proposal at the Miami City Commission meeting yesterday, but a last-minute objection caused the whole thing to unravel. Commissioner Marc Sarnoff made three demands on the financing terms, such as mandating that the city and county share in any profits if the team ever relocates elsewhere, which nearly killed the project. This illustrates the deep distrust that persists between the franchise and the public officials. Sarnoff is the lone Anglo on the five-member Commission (see miamigov.com), representing the wealthy oceanfront district of Miami. Then, Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez, who supports the new stadium, moved to postpone the vote for another month. One of the city commissioners, Michelle Spence-Jones, is currently on maternity leave. She is thought to be leaning toward approval of the deal. Marlins President David "Samson said there's still time to get the stadium built in time for Opening Day 2012." From the Miami Herald,
The blueprint calls for a $609 million stadium and parking facility in which the lion's share, $454 million, would be funded mostly through tourist taxes. The ball club would spend $155 million -- though $35 million of its share would be a loan from the county.
This is getting even crazier than the tumultuous series of political maneuverings over ballpark financing in Washington from late 2004 to early 2006!
Even though I look askance on major league baseball franchises making their homes in semi-tropical climes -- which ought to be reserved exclusively for spring training -- the fact that the Marlins have already won two World Series has created a historical precedent that must be respected. Contraction of the franchise is still a last-resort option, but I hope that they can come up with a reasonable compromise to build a permanent home for the Marlins. I still think they should get creative and make it a public works project similar to what was done during the New Deal of the 1930s.