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Marlins raise ballpark figures


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Marlins raise ballpark figures


By Sarah Talalay

Staff Writer

Posted October 28 2004


The Marlins have increased cost estimates for a new ballpark and parking garage east of the Orange Bowl to $420 million, up from $367 million, and have agreed to contribute more to the stadium now projected to open in 2008, according to documents the team submitted to Miami-Dade County and city of Miami officials this week.


Under the proposal, which all three sides hope can be finalized next month, the Marlins would increase their commitment to a 38,000-seat, retractable-roof ballpark from $157 million to $192 million in mainly rent payments guaranteed by ballpark revenue and cash. The team, which would be renamed Miami Marlins, also agrees to cover cost overruns through sources that could include future revenue, a lien on the franchise, a letter of credit and, if possible, a guarantee from Major League Baseball to cover up to $10 million.


"The reason the team's contribution has gone up is to allay the public's concerns that the Marlins will be unable to cover any cost overruns," Marlins President David Samson said Wednesday. "By increasing the project cost from the beginning, it is reducing the potential cost overruns."


Samson said the team's contribution is the fourth largest of any Major League Baseball team to a stadium project.


"It reinforces what [owner] Jeffrey [Loria]'s goal was from the beginning, and that was to make sure the Marlins stay in Florida forever, but having said that we're out of time," Samson said. "This was a last best effort to do a deal so we can get this deal under construction and solidify our future."


The county would raise its contribution from $120 million to $138 million in hotel bed and sports facilities taxes, including $16 million for land acquisition. The city's contribution remains at $28 million in tourist development taxes, and the $32 million parking garage is expected to pay for itself through parking fees. The city and county would acquire land needed for the ballpark. The three parties will lobby together for a $60 million state sales tax rebate from the Legislature next spring to cover $30 million in construction costs. If state funding is not secured, the Marlins can terminate the agreement. The document also states that if an agreement is not approved by the city and county commissions at one of their next two meetings, the team cannot be barred from seeking to relocate to another city.


"I think we have resolved all our issues," Miami City Manager Joe Arriola said. "I am extremely encouraged."


Miami-Dade County Tax Collector Ian Yorty, who is helping negotiate the deal, said county officials were studying the document. "We are digesting it currently," he said. "There are certainly things we will not be able to accept."


It has been a year since team and county officials, fresh from the World Series championship parades, announced their intention to finance a new stadium. The team, county and city now stand closer than ever to cementing a deal. And it appears a Nov. 1 deadline allowing third baseman Mike Lowell to become a free agent if a stadium deal is not in place could be moot because talks are under way to keep Lowell with the team.


Among the obstacles to completing a deal could be Tuesday's Miami-Dade mayoral election, which pits stadium supporter Carlos Alvarez against County Commissioner Jimmy Morales, who opposed spending tourist tax dollars on the stadium.


"If you're going to be a first- class city, you need a major league franchise," Alvarez said. "Without a stadium, they can't stay here. It would be embarrassing, a black eye on South Florida, if they packed their bags and left."


Morales says if he is elected mayor he won't override the county commission, but he will not support putting more money into the deal, said his campaign manager Derek Newton.


"He doesn't feel it's the best use of funding, but he would not try to undo the deal the commission has already put together," Newton said.


Sarah Talalay can be reached at [email protected]

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