MIAMI (AP) — Until Miami city commissioners can decide if they want a new ballpark for the Florida Marlins, county officials will back away from the deal.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez on Monday, March 2 said he has instructed County Manager George Burgess to stop working on the stadium plan until city commissioners reach a final vote on the ballpark proposal. Alvarez also asked County Commission Chairman Dennis
Moss to hold off on the county's vote on the deal, which would bring a 37,000-seat stadium to the city's Little Havana neighborhood.
County commissioners were expected to take up the proposal next week.
“The fate of the proposed Marlins stadium is in the hands of the Miami city commission,” Alvarez said. “Miami-Dade County will not be held hostage by conditions that have absolutely nothing to do with baseball. The ultimatums, pandering and politics must stop.”
City commissioners last met on the issue in Feb. 13, and adjourned after 7 1/2 hours without reaching a final decision on a plan. They are expected to take up most of the stadium agreement on Friday, March 6.
City commissioners voted 2-2 on the plan at February's meeting, with commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones absent and three votes required for approval. The meeting was thrown into chaos when a commissioner proposed amendments to the agreement. The amendments dealt with a parking garage, naming rights to the facility and the potential sale of the team.
“I really believe that if we start thinking and retooling this deal there could be a Marlins stadium,” City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who proposed the amendments at February's meeting. “They need to bring a more fair share. The three issues I brought up were very simple.”
Then on Friday, Feb. 27, Spence-Jones issued demands of her own. In a statement, she said the Marlins would “strike out” on the deal unless projects for her Overtown district received support.
“Overtown must get its fair share,” she said in the statement.
The Marlins have sought a new home for more than a decade. Since their first game in 1993, the team has shared the NFL Miami Dolphins' home in suburban Miami. Marlins spokesman P.J. Loyello said the team had no comment.
“The art of negotiation has been made a mockery of,” Alvarez said. “Thoughtful and serious negotiations have been hijacked. Good intentions have been morphed into unreasonable demands. The politicking has become a distraction. It's nonsense.”
The new ballpark would be located on the site of the demolished Orange Bowl. Plans call for a retractable roof, which the attendance-challenged Marlins said would help draw more fans.
Critics of the plan, which would be financed with our tax dollars said taxpayers shouldn't foot such a large bill for a baseball team, especially given the sour economy.
The project included a $94 million parking complex, bringing the total cost to $609 million. Bed taxes would finance most of the construction, with the Marlins paying $119 million. By one estimate, repaying the debt on loans for the project could have cost the county $1.8 billion over 40 years.
“I'm disappointed that everyone looks at things in utter optimism, and while it's OK to be optimistic, you don't plan based on optimism,” Sarnoff said. “I don't think anybody out there would buy a house based on a salary they don't have. I don't think we don't have a stadium based on a bed tax we don't have.”
The team has never been so close to winning approval for a new home, with the final hurdle being approval of contracts related to the stadium. The Marlins were rejected five times in six years seeking funding from the Florida Legislature, and the latest plan involves no state money.
“I think that we need to go back to the drawing board and take a look at this agreement in March 2009 eyes as opposed to February 2008 eyes,” Sarnoff said. “This is a different world economy than existed over a year ago.”