MIAMI – The Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce and the Miami-Dade NAACP on Friday announced a historic agreement with the Florida Marlins that would guarantee contracts for black-owned businesses during the construction and operation of the proposed $515 million ballpark in Miami.
The announcement, which took place Friday morning, Feb. 13 at Jungle Island in Miami, included Bill Diggs, president of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce; Bishop Victor T. Curry, president of the Miami-Dade NAACP; David Samson, president of the Florida Marlins and other community leaders.
The purpose of the agreement is to promote racial diversity in the construction and everyday business activity of the Marlins in the new ballpark.
The Florida Marlins have agreed to provide black-owned businesses with 15 percent of the Marlins private contribution in construction contracts.
The team will also seek to provide 15 percent of its contracts for products and services each year in its operations to black-owned businesses. Businesses that would be included in the agreement run the gamut from construction, to janitorial, to legal, financial and accounting services.
Also, the Marlins reaffirmed their commitment to assist with the educational programs both for adults and youth in the community, and to work with community-based organizations and grassroots organizations to provide assistance to them.
The Miami City Commission is scheduled for a final vote on the stadium deal on Thursday, March 19, and the Miami-Dade County Commission is set to vote on it March 23.
“We wanted to see if there was a way with the building of this ballpark and the operation of this ball club, that we found a way to be the beginning of changing the way people act and the way people think,” Samson said. “When corporations look at what we’ve done, they will say, ‘Yes, we can.”
“It’s a good day for us,” Diggs told the South Florida Times before the press conference.
Diggs was joined by his board chair, Eric Knowles, who said, “We as a black community have made our presence heard and seen. And moving forward, we’re here to be reckoned with. We’re not just here to play in the backyard or the back scene; we’re on major league fields.”
The Community Compact and Agreement between the NAACP, MDCC and the Florida Marlins calls for the baseball organization to invest roughly “$120 million of private capital during the design and construction of the stadium (if and when approved by the City of Miami and Miami Dade County), and additional funds generated by cost overruns in the construction of the project.”
On Thursday, March 12, the city commission unanimously approved the expansion of the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency district, a key factor in gaining the support of City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.
Spence-Jones has launched her re-election campaign. She recently gave birth and cut her maternity leave short to announce that her vote hinged on the organization’s investing millions of dollars in her district.
Spence-Jones had said that she was ensuring that promises made in 2007 to include Overtown in Miami and Miami-Dade’s plans to infuse downtown Miami with $3 billion worth of public works projects – along with the proposed ballpark for the Marlins – were kept.
Following the city’s March 12 vote, it is likely that Spence-Jones will vote in favor of the new stadium. If the votes by both the city and the county are favorable, the agreement between the Marlins, the NAACP and the chamber guarantee black-owned businesses the opportunity to participate in the design and construction of the complex.
“When we started on this project a little over nine months ago or so, my board had the presence of mind to talk about how important it was to make sure that Miami-Dade is an inclusive community,” Diggs said. “The role and responsibility of our chamber of commerce is to promote the economic development and advancement of black-owned businesses in this community,”
In addition to including black-owned businesses in the building of the stadium, the 14-point agreement will provide “internships, mentorships, educational opportunities, and tutorial programs in partnership with the chamber, [NAACP] branch and other local organizations.”
In an effort to ensure accountability, the Marlins will provide to the chamber and NAACP quarterly reports “showing the utilization of African American owned businesses and workers.”
The agreement also includes provisions for ex-felons who “have demonstrated a commitment to leading a productive life.”
Samson said his efforts over the past seven years to keep the Marlins in South Florida have been “the bane of my existence.”
Being a reflection of the community’s diversity, however, is a goal Samson said the two-time World Series champions embrace.
“There is a ranking for diversity, and the Marlins are number one in terms of front office and on field coaching, etc.,” Samson said. The agreement with the Chamber and the NAACP is an extension of that philosophy, he said.
Curry encouraged black people to increase their attendance at the Marlins’ games from the current 3 percent to a rate that reflects greater support for the organization.
“I want to congratulate and commend David Samson along with his professional team of negotiators… to work to have a real conversation about race, about expectations and about equity,” said Curry, a former Marlins season ticket holder who said he plans to become a season ticket holder again.
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT staff: David Samson, left; Victor Curry, center; and Bill Diggs, right, signed an agreement March 13 seeking to guarantee that black-owned businesses will participate in the construction and operation of the proposed Florida Marlins stadium.