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Governor Boosts Ballpark Funding Formula


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http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/16593052.htm

Governor boosts ballpark funding formula

Gov. Charlie Crist said he's in favor of using state funds to help pay for new ballparks -- good news for the Florida Marlins and their $420 million plan.

 

BY MARY ELLEN KLAS AND MARC CAPUTO

meklas@MiamiHerald.com

 

 

TALLAHASSEE - After seven years of last-minute political defeats, the plan to help the Florida Marlins build a new ballpark with the help of state funds got a major boost Wednesday when Gov. Charlie Crist announced he is a fan of using taxpayer money to subsidize sports stadiums.

 

Crist, a former Major League Baseball attorney and one-time college quarterback, said stadiums rev up local economies and benefit communities in other ways.

 

''I would look favorably upon it,'' Crist said at The Associated Press' annual legislative preview meeting. He did not specifically mention the Marlins, but he indicated he would support state-sponsored stadium financing because it keeps ballclubs operating in Florida.

 

''It's not just the players who benefit from that,'' the governor said. ``People park cars at those facilities and serve hot dogs at those facilities. And it provides a lot of economic opportunities to our state. And it showcases Florida in many ways.''

 

The Marlins have a lease on Dolphin Stadium through 2010, at which point the club wants to move to a new, retractable-roof stadium, which would cost an estimated $420 million.

 

Miami-Dade County has previously offered to spend $120 million, and the club said it would pitch in $210 million. But that leaves a $90 million gap, and Marlins and county officials want the state to kick in $60 million over 30 years.

 

IN ALIGNMENT

 

Crist's stated desire for the Legislature to do just that added momentum to the stadium effort.

 

''I believe, right now, to say we're close is the mother of all understatements,'' County Manager George Burgess said Tuesday at a joint meeting of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation and the County Commission. ``The stars, I think, have really lined up.''

 

Since 2000, South Florida lawmakers have come close but failed to muster the votes needed to get the Legislature to approve the money, or they faced opposition from former Gov. Jeb Bush. Last year, they came the closest when on the last night of the last day of the legislative session, they had the votes to pass the plan -- but time ran out.

 

''It wasn't the greatest vote we ever made,'' said Sen. Dan Webster, a Republican from Winter Garden. ``I think the proposal will be different this year.''

 

Now, Rep. Marco Rubio of Coral Gables, a longtime stadium supporter, has become House speaker -- although he admits there is still opposition in the House and he will not make it a House priority.

 

''I really don't think that's an issue that a speaker makes a priority for a chamber,'' Rubio said Wednesday. ``Do I want it to pass? Of course.''

 

Senate President Ken Pruitt and Webster, his majority leader, said Wednesday the Senate supported the proposal last year and is likely to do the same this year.

 

Under past proposals, clubs could receive a rebate if they show they can generate more than $2 million a year in sales taxes. Once they do that, they collect $2 million each year for 30 years.

 

OBSTACLES REMAIN

 

But, as with other attempts by the Marlins to build a stadium to keep the team in South Florida, this one faces both state and local hurdles.

 

For starters, the site of the new ballpark isn't set, and the most sought-after location would require a complicated land deal between the county and the city of Miami to allow the club to tap into a special tax-break system that was originally established for fixing up blighted areas.

 

Burgess said the proposal to use downtown land just north of County Hall has sent an encouraging signal to Major League Baseball officials -- who consider it ''the most intriguing and attractive site'' they have seen in their years of discussion.

 

The nine-acre site has easy access to existing parking lots, commuter rail and Interstate 95. It's also just blocks from other top entertainment destinations -- Bayside Marketplace, AmericanAirlines Arena and the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts.

 

In Tallahassee, the biggest hurdle is that lawmakers will have to agree to change the law to allow the Marlins franchise to receive a second dip into state coffers for a ballpark. The team has already received the $60 million state subsidy to make its current site, Dolphin Stadium, more baseball-friendly.

 

SETTING PRECEDENT

 

If lawmakers approve a second subsidy for the Marlins, they open the door for legislative requests from other professional sports clubs who want a second tax break.

 

In addition to the Marlins, the Orlando Magic basketball club and the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey club have indicated an interest in tapping into the plan. Too many teams looking for the handout could sink its success.

 

That prospect leaves Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, a Miami Republican and one of the House sponsors, optimistic but wary.

 

''It seems like it should happen,'' he said. ``But it seemed that way before. You never know what can happen in the Legislature.''

 

Miami Herald staff writer Matthew I. Pinzur contributed to this report.

 

 

Good news. Perhaps everyone shoud write a quick e-mail to Christ to show support...You know for sure he'll be hearing from the other side on this.

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The most encouraging part fo the article is Mr. Burgess' overflowing optimism.

 

This man is in the middle of the negotiations and statements like "the stars, I think, have really lined up" and "to say we're close is the mother of all understatements" are music to my ears.

 

Some sort of deal will probably be anounced soon so that it can be presented to the lesgilature when the regular session begins.

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The most encouraging part fo the article is Mr. Burgess' overflowing optimism.

 

This man is in the middle of the negotiations and statements like "the stars, I think, have really lined up" and "to say we're close is the mother of all understatements" are music to my ears.

 

Some sort of deal will probably be anounced soon so that it can be presented to the lesgilature when the regular session begins.

 

couldn't agree more. Burgess has been quite for most part, and in the past he has been conservative with his comentary. So these comments are music to my ears as well!

 

If we ever get this thing built, Burgess deserves a ton of credit.

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The most encouraging part fo the article is Mr. Burgess' overflowing optimism.

 

This man is in the middle of the negotiations and statements like "the stars, I think, have really lined up" and "to say we're close is the mother of all understatements" are music to my ears.

 

Some sort of deal will probably be anounced soon so that it can be presented to the lesgilature when the regular session begins.

 

couldn't agree more. Burgess has been quite for most part, and in the past he has been conservative with his comentary. So these comments are music to my ears as well!

 

If we ever get this thing built, Burgess deserves a ton of credit.

 

and MLB deserves credit, for continuing to believe in the area and for SHOVING Loria and pervert out of the way.

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