|Miami city officials vote for Marlins ballpark deal; county next up|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 21 February 2008 09:10|
The 4-1 vote gave the Marlins the first of two passages they were hoping for on the day.
The bigger challenge likely remained. Commissioners from Miami-Dade County, which would bear most of the cost associated with the planned 37,000-seat, retractable-roof facility, were set to vote later Thursday about the plan - which has its critics.
``The way I see it, we're not building a stadium for the Marlins,'' county Mayor Carlos Alvarez said before the city vote. ``We are building a stadium for Miami-Dade County residents. We are going to own that stadium.''
The city will direct $13 million toward the ballpark and transfer the land for the new stadium to the county. The city will also build a $94 million parking garage and spend another $10 million to demolish the Orange Bowl stadium in the city's Little Havana neighborhood - which was already planned.
``This has been a very long time coming,'' county commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro said.
After years of negotiating, and several failed quests to complete other stadium plans, the city, county, team and Major League Baseball completed an agreement late last week. City and county commissioners began receiving copies of the documents Saturday.
``I didn't expect to read an agreement from the city's perspective that I thought makes financial sense,'' said city commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who originally planned to vote against the deal.
The county would pay $347 million in stadium construction costs. The Marlins would pay $155 million, some of which would be in $2.3 million annual rent, plus agree to buy 5,750 parking spots from the city for 35 seasons - essentially paying off the city's cost of building the garage.
All stadium revenues would go to the Marlins, who claim they lose millions each year, and the team would be renamed the Miami Marlins before the new facility opens.
The perceived rush to a vote did not appease several opponents of the stadium plan, many of whom urged the city to let residents decide the issue in a referendum. Some also wanted to defer action until the resolution of auto dealer Norman Braman's lawsuit seeking to derail the project.
The majority of the city commission was not swayed.
``Today, we are in the ninth inning,'' city commission Chairman Joe Sanchez said. ``The bases are loaded. We have two outs, we're three runs down, we have two strikes, and I believe we have a great opportunity to hit this ball out of the ballpark.''
Since the team's inaugural season in 1993, it has played at Dolphin Stadium, which is still owned by former Marlins owner H. Wayne Huizenga. The team's lease there expires after the 2010 season.
But the Marlins' current lease doesn't allow them to get much revenue out of that facility, so the team has purged higher-salary players in recent years. The Marlins haven't made the playoffs since winning the 2003 World Series, and have had baseball's lowest average attendance in each of the past two seasons.
``It's been quite a road to this day,'' Marlins president David Samson said.