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Jim Defede in today's Miami Herald

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This column appeared in today's Miami Herald and I thought it might be worth sharing. I emailed Jim and thanked him for it and you'll find my comments to him at end of this piece.


Link to Jim DeFede's piece in today's Miami Herald


Posted on Sun, Mar. 14, 2004




Let's hear the ballpark plan before we boo it




I know that is the response I'm supposed to yell as soon as people start talking about building a new stadium for the Florida Marlins.


``A waste of government money! A loss of society's priorities! Welfare for millionaires!''


At least a dozen times in the past few months I've sat down at my computer and started writing a column decrying any plan to build a stadium for the Marlins. And then after about 15 minutes of banging away at the keys about the inherent evil in such a proposal, I stop, file it away without publishing it, and move onto something else.


For the longest time, I've been trying to figure out why I haven't finished that column. And I realize it is a combination of factors.




Let's start with the Performing Art Center (PAC) -- or as I like to call it, Snobbery on the Bay, which gives it the more appropriate acronym SOB. This succubus is a never-ending sinkhole of cost overruns and busted deadlines. Originally budgeted to be built for $255 million, it'll probably cost well in excess of $300 million by the time it's done.


We'll probably be lucky if it only costs $300 million. This pretentiously designed complex was supposed to open in October 2004. Now we're looking at summer of 2006.


Now, I like opera as much as the next fellow, but I'd bet my collection of Hoyt Axton records that the fat lady isn't going to sing on this project until at least 2007.


Every time I drive by the PAC/SOB, I ask myself: Why is it OK to spend public money on this endeavor and not on a new ballpark? Is it a form of elitism that says public money that goes to support opera and ballet is OK, but not baseball? Why isn't the enjoyment that a family derives going to the ballpark as valuable as the enjoyment of going to the symphony?




Obviously, part of the answer is that the owners of baseball teams are wealthy and can afford to build a stadium that will increase the value of their club. But aren't the primary beneficiaries of the Performing Art Center a small cadre of wealthy residents who like dressing up in ball gowns and tuxedos for an evening of Puccini or Mozart?


Another reason I am sympathetic to the Marlins is that their owners seem relatively decent compared to the other sports moguls in this town -- Wayne Huizenga and the slightly less greedy Mickey Arison.


When Huizenga dismantled the Marlins after their first world championship -- a sin for which he can never be forgiven -- he sold the team. The Marlins now pay Huizenga to play at Pro Player Stadium, but Huizenga still keeps the concessions at the ballpark, as well as the parking revenue.


Folks who went to the World Series last year complained about the Marlins doubling the price of parking. The Marlins had nothing to do with that. All that money went to Huizenga.


If building the Marlins a new stadium will deprive Huizenga of millions of dollars in lease payments and other revenue, then that is almost reason enough for me to say go ahead and build it.


Likewise, every time I drive by the AmericanAirlines Arena, I end up screaming Arison's name along with a slew of vulgarities. It's my own form of Tourette's syndrome.


A billionaire, Arison could have paid for that arena himself and been considered a hero in this community. Instead, he reached into our pockets and took our money to help him build that monstrosity on valuable waterfront property.


At least the owners of the Marlins are interested in building on land that is otherwise blighted west of Biscayne Boulevard. This week, possible plans for a new arena will likely be unveiled. At the end of the day, I may still think that what the Marlins and the city and the county are proposing is a huge boondoggle, but for now, I'm willing to listen.



(my email to Jim)


I hope when I'm planted six feet under and my ten year old son, by then a grown man tells his children about going to his first World Series (and 49 other games last season) with his old man, he remembers the joy we shared and how wonderful it felt to watch "our" team triumph over the (Giants, Cubs and) hated New York Yankees and how he played a part in showing the world that major league baseball belonged in South Florida.


I want to thank you for giving Loria and company a fair shake in today's paper. That's all baseball fans ask from the local media, a fair shake. Among owners of major league teams, across the spectrum of sports, Jeffrey Loria is a pauper compared to the billions Huizenga and Arison are worth. But more importantly he delivered, he's done more in two years than Huizenga and Arison have done for our collective esteem in decades. I remember the morning after the Marlins clinched the wildcard, opening up the Herald, ready to share it with my son, and seeing for the whole world to see a picture a picture of a fan holding a sign that read "Loria=MVP" and accompanying it a columnist's view that MVP stood for "Most Vile Parasite".


The Marlins are willing to eat any cost overruns in building a stadium, something I've yet to hear from the black-tie set, all the Fish ask is control over construction and their destiny. Even at my advanced age (a few weeks short of 58) call me naive but I believe Loria is in it for the sheer joy of the game not to become more wealthy. It would take him twenty years to make back what he's lost and is going to lose (roughly $15-20 million a year) by the time a new stadium opens. The passion of baseball is infectious, we all saw how the entire region embraced the team last fall, how good it made us feel, how proud we were, how much better we were as a people for it.


So thanks Jim for your open-minded piece this morning, I just wanted you to know at least one person appreciated it. When you're being flooded with criticism for taking on the special interests and the upper crust who always knows what's best for the rest of us, I hope you'll find comfort in my missive.


Go Fish!

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Where in the paper was this article? I didnt see it in the sports section - and that could be a problem. Because that is where these readers would be. Or perhaps not...most who read the sports section dont have a problem with keeping the Marlins in town. A very good read nonetheless - and openminded (finally!).


I think we will hear good news very soon...

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Where in the paper was this article? I didnt see it in the sports section - and that could be a problem. Because that is where these readers would be. Or perhaps not...most who read the sports section dont have a problem with keeping the Marlins in town. A very good read nonetheless - and openminded (finally!).


I think we will hear good news very soon...


It was on the front page of the metro section, sunday.

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