MIAMI – Following a meeting that lasted more than nine hours, the Miami-Dade County Commission on Monday voted to approve the construction of a new baseball stadium for The Florida Marlins, soon to be renamed The Miami Marlins, by a vote of 9 to 4.
Miami-Dade County owns the land upon which the stadium will be built. The county will contribute more than $300 million to the ballpark’s construction.
The county’s vote came just four days after Miami city commissioners approved the stadium, which will be constructed near Little Havana on the site of the demolished Orange Bowl.
Voting in support of the stadium were Commissioners Dennis Moss, Bruno Barreiro, Audrey Edmonson, Natacha Seijas, Javier Souto, Barbara Jordan, Dorrin Rolle, Jose '”Pepe'” Diaz and Rebeca Sosa.
Opposing the stadium were Commissioners Carlos Gimenez, Sally Heyman, Katy Sorenson and Joe Martinez.
“Great communities have great facilities,” Moss said. “I view us a building this stadium for the community…We will own it. It will guarantee that some baseball team will be playing in the stadium.”
Moss made those comments before instructing the county clerk to call roll for the vote, which happened shortly after 10:30 p.m. Monday. The meeting began around 1 p.m.
Moss said he thinks the benefits of building the stadium will not only create the employment opportunities its supporters tout, but will also have a positive ripple effect on housing and other quality of life issues in Miami.
Sorenson, however, said the money could be put to better use.
“I don’t think public money should be used for a private business transaction.” Sorenson said. “I think that there are many other ways this money could be used to benefit our community. It’s just a bad deal for the county.”
“My biggest concern is perhaps the simplest,” Heyman said of the Marlins organization’s refusal to reveal its financial records. “If any of us were to buy a house, we must disclose our ability to pay.”
The groundbreaking for the stadium is slated for July, with the opening proposed for the beginning of the baseball season in 2012.
The retractable-roof park is expected to cost at least $515 million.
The Marlins won the 1997 and 2003 World Series, but have never consistently drawn well at the stadium they share with the NFL's Miami Dolphins, according to The Associated Press. The team blames South Florida's hot and rainy summers, but fans have also been frustrated by the team's history of trading its young stars like Josh Beckett and Miguel Cabrera once their salaries become expensive.
Hotel bed taxes are meant to finance most of the construction, with the Marlins paying $119 million and repaying a $35 million loan from the county. Critics have said taxpayers shouldn't help foot such a large bill for a private enterprise, especially given the sour economy. An attempt to block the stadium in court failed last year, the AP reported.