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Wolff has no plans to fish for another baseball team

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San Antonio Business Journal

April 28, 2006

by W. Scott Bailey


Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff baited his hook with a $200 million stadium financing plan and the lure of a growing corporate community hungry for a second major professional sports franchise. With a Wolff-imposed May 15 deadline quickly approaching, the Florida Marlins have so far refused to bite.


And although Wolff knows there are other Major League Baseball teams besides the Marlins that may be searching for greener fields of dreams, the county judge says he will not take his stadium bait and go fishing after any of them.


Some baseball backers want Wolff to take his stadium package and his corporate support and offer it up to other Major League Baseball franchises struggling to get new ballparks or more fans. Others -- including a national sports consulting firm with strong baseball ties -- contend that such a fishing expedition would be a mistake.


Adam Zimmerman, vice president of Atlanta-based Career Sports & Entertainment, says any such effort would no doubt be frowned upon by baseball.


Wolff says it was the Marlins who have done the fishing around and he has no plans to chase after another team.


His only goal should the Marlins pass on San Antonio: "Keep the door open and maintain good relations with Major League Baseball."


Go fish


Wolff says the May 15 deadline for the Marlins to "fish or cut bait" was set so that local officials would have enough time to get a stadium financing referendum on the November ballot and to provide enough time for a proper campaign so that the measure had a chance of passing.


"When I said May 15, I meant May 15," Wolff notes. "If they aren't ready to come down here and start negotiating with us by then, that's it as far as I'm concerned."


Wolff says despite any posturing in the press to the contrary, the Marlins were not caught off-guard by the deadline.


"They knew what my timeline was all along," he says. "I've got a lot of problems here, too. I can't hold this thing together forever. It's like a dish of water splashing around."


One of those problems is time -- or the lack thereof.


"I don't want to have to rush into something and then have it fail," Wolff says. "That would be worse."


Zimmerman is sold on San Antonio.


"It has the potential to be a phenomenal market for baseball," he says. "San Antonio will learn from this experience. It will figure out where to go from here."


Where the Marlins go from here is anyone's guess at the moment. So far, team officials have remained mostly quiet.


Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has characterized his talks with San Antonio officials as "very serious."


But Loria has also stated multiple times that his goal is to get a new stadium in South Florida and to keep the Marlins in the Sunshine State.


Squeeze play?


So far, the Marlins have reached out to Las Vegas; Charlotte, N.C.; Portland, Ore. and Norfolk, Va. Officials in Oklahoma City have tossed their hat into the ring, too.


But only San Antonio has offered the Marlins a stadium financing plan to date. That plan involves extending the same hotel and rental-car taxes used to construct the San Antonio Spurs' AT&T Center. Wolff believes such an extension would allow Bexar County to contribute some $200 million toward a $310 million stadium.


Wolff says the Monday morning quarterbacks contend that the Marlins have only been using San Antonio in an attempt to gain leverage with Florida officials.


"That is always a possibility," Wolff admits. But while making no attempt to hold back his laughter, he adds, "I might say, if that was their tactic, so far they sure haven't been successful."


Others believe the Marlins could be nervous about the outcome of a stadium referendum here.


"That's obviously a concern when you have to go to voters," Wolff says. "It's a risk I know they have to weigh."


A defeat would essentially mean that the Marlins had lost almost an entire year since opening talks with Wolff and other local officials.


Wolff remains somewhat optimistic that the Marlins will beat the May 15 deadline and enter into real negotiations with local officials about relocating here. If they don't, he says it's likely because Major League Baseball is not ready to give up on a strategic decision it made more than a dozen years ago when it went to South Florida.


Zimmerman says leaving South Florida would be tough for the Marlins and Major League Baseball. He says the density of population in that region is too attractive to ignore -- and perhaps even tougher to abandon.


"Baseball and the Marlins would be remiss in not doing all they can to try and make it work there," Zimmerman says.


Still, he says San Antonio has plenty to offer.


"San Antonio has a lot of the ingredients needed to be a very viable market -- one that has the kind of sports loyalty of a place like Green Bay," Zimmerman notes.


Wolff knows that his dance with baseball has come while others -- including Mayor Phil Hardberger -- continue to pursue NFL aspirations for San Antonio.


"If this (Marlins relocation) doesn't work, it's a slip -- not a fall," Wolff says. "We are going to have a second major professional sports franchise at some point in the near future.


"While I might prefer baseball," Wolff continues, "I certainly support football. We are prepared and ready, whether it is football or baseball."


Hardberger says he believes Wolff's offer of support is genuine. And he, too, believes discussions with the Marlins may have helped raise the city's sports profile even higher.


"What is clear to me and an increasing number of people is that there is such a growing interest in San Antonio," Hardberger says. "We are going to get another team; it's going to happen. You are going to see more and more nibbles and pretty soon, we're going to reel somebody in."




Article is three days old. I'm surprised one of the SA homers (not you fyatuk) didn't post this article, they usually are on top of things like this. I wonder why..... :mischief

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Article is three days old. I'm surprised one of the SA homers (not you fyatuk) didn't post this article, they usually are on top of things like this. I wonder why..... :mischief



Glad to hear I'm not thought of as a homer.


I did mention this in the post about the Ken Rodriguez article (I think it was there), but didn't have the link handy. It's in the SA Business journal too.

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