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The New York Times take on FanFest and the Stadium Situation


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Marlins Wonder if Star?s Smile Can Muster Support for New Stadium

By KAREN CROUSE

Published: February 11, 2007

 

MIAMI, Feb. 10 ? The first question posed to David P. Samson, the president of the Florida Marlins, at the annual mixer with the team?s players and fans at Dolphin Stadium was as predictable in these parts as a summer rain shower.

 

Dontrelle Willis, the Florida Marlins pitcher, was surrounded by fans at the team?s annual mixer Saturday.

A man in the audience of roughly 200 stood up Saturday and asked, in so many words, if this would be the year that the Marlins finally addressed their most pressing need ? a new stadium.

 

?It?s only a record 13th year that that?s the opening question at FanFest,? Samson quipped. ?There?s a lot of positive developments,? he started to say.

 

But that was as far as he got before his voice was drowned out by applause.

 

Dontrelle Willis, the Marlins? standout left-handed pitcher, had loped onto the stage, a few minutes late, but seemingly right on cue.

 

Willis, a 22-game winner two seasons ago, is the Marlins? most popular player, which makes him the franchise?s biggest bargaining chip in its game of political roulette with state legislators and taxpayers over a new retractable-roof stadium.

 

The opportunity to see the charismatic Willis pitch every fifth day is a powerful lure for a franchise that plays its home games in a charmless stadium built for football, in a climate made for alligators and orchids.

 

As the worldwide audience that tuned in for the Super Bowl here last Sunday can attest, it rains in South Florida. The steady downpour that made a mess of the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears reminded Samson of the Marlins? World Series against the Yankees in 2003, when Game 3 in Miami was interrupted by rain for 39 minutes.

 

?It was amazing to watch the reaction of the Super Bowl in the rain and think about how many times that happened to us here at Dolphin Stadium,? Samson said before the question-and-answer session. He added, ?It certainly brought back memories and made me long for the day when we?re in a retractable-roof facility.?

 

All three owners in the franchise?s 15-year history have pushed for a baseball-only stadium with a retractable roof. H. Wayne Huizenga, the founding owner, raised the idea of building a new ballpark at a projected cost to taxpayers of $250 million during the team?s inaugural season, in 1993. That figure has soared to more than $500 million since.

 

But Bob DuPuy, the chief operating officer for Major League Baseball, made securing a new ballpark for the Marlins the league?s top off-season priority. Gov. Charlie Crist, who succeeded Jeb Bush this year, has said that he supports using some state money for new stadiums.

 

?Certainly we?re optimistic,? Samson said. ?It seems as though the stars are aligning right now.?

 

The Marlins have two stars to shepherd the cause, the 25-year-old Willis and the 23-year-old third baseman Miguel Cabrera. They are the only recognizable faces remaining from the 2003 Marlins squad that defeated the Yankees in six games to win the franchise?s second World Series title in less than 10 years.

 

This season, Willis and Cabrera will account for roughly 50 percent of the Marlins? payroll, which is again expected to be the lowest in the league, at less than $30 million. As long as the new stadium initiative is in play, they would appear too valuable to trade.

 

But the Mets, whose starting rotation is a couple of arms short of a championship rotation, coveted Willis last year, his supposed comings and goings the subject of the nonstop conjecture.

 

?It?s really funny because it was almost like I was one phone call away from being a Met,? said Willis, who agreed to a one-year contract last month that is worth $6.45 million.

 

He added, ?I?ve never heard so much speculation, and it?s going on to this day.?

 

A California native who married during the off-season, Willis has put down roots in South Florida, buying a house in North Miami Beach. ?I have a great deal of love and respect for this organization and South Florida and how they?ve embraced me,? he said.

 

But Willis?s future here is on a shaky foundation, seemingly tied to the result of the stadium battle. He is reminded of it all the time.

 

One of Willis?s neighbors, he said, is a Mets fan from Flushing. ?Every time I walk outside, it?s like a countdown to when I?m going to be a Met,? Willis said, laughing. ?They?re all over me every day.?

 

Willis was surrounded by fans of all ages wherever he went Saturday. The line to meet him at a V.I.P. luncheon was longer than the line for the buffet.

 

At the fan question-and-answer session, Willis smiled and nodded like a bobblehead doll when he agreed with something a teammate was saying, which was often. The last question posed to Willis was from Kevin Gutman, a 6-year-old from Wellington, in Palm Beach County, who wanted to know how many games Willis was going to win this season.

 

?31, 32,? Willis said. Smiling broadly, he added, ?Every time I go out there, I want to win for you guys.?

 

Gutman?s father, Ken, a Mets fan going back to his childhood on Long Island, sighed. Of course he would love to see Willis in a Mets uniform, he said.

 

?But they need a star here,? he said, ?so I?ll sacrifice.?

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/11/sports/b...amp;oref=slogin

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Marlins Wonder if Star?s Smile Can Muster Support for New Stadium

By KAREN CROUSE

Published: February 11, 2007

 

MIAMI, Feb. 10 ? The first question posed to David P. Samson, the president of the Florida Marlins, at the annual mixer with the team?s players and fans at Dolphin Stadium was as predictable in these parts as a summer rain shower.

 

Dontrelle Willis, the Florida Marlins pitcher, was surrounded by fans at the team?s annual mixer Saturday.

A man in the audience of roughly 200 stood up Saturday and asked, in so many words, if this would be the year that the Marlins finally addressed their most pressing need ? a new stadium.

 

?It?s only a record 13th year that that?s the opening question at FanFest,? Samson quipped. ?There?s a lot of positive developments,? he started to say.

 

But that was as far as he got before his voice was drowned out by applause.

 

Dontrelle Willis, the Marlins? standout left-handed pitcher, had loped onto the stage, a few minutes late, but seemingly right on cue.

 

Willis, a 22-game winner two seasons ago, is the Marlins? most popular player, which makes him the franchise?s biggest bargaining chip in its game of political roulette with state legislators and taxpayers over a new retractable-roof stadium.

 

The opportunity to see the charismatic Willis pitch every fifth day is a powerful lure for a franchise that plays its home games in a charmless stadium built for football, in a climate made for alligators and orchids.

 

As the worldwide audience that tuned in for the Super Bowl here last Sunday can attest, it rains in South Florida. The steady downpour that made a mess of the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears reminded Samson of the Marlins? World Series against the Yankees in 2003, when Game 3 in Miami was interrupted by rain for 39 minutes.

 

?It was amazing to watch the reaction of the Super Bowl in the rain and think about how many times that happened to us here at Dolphin Stadium,? Samson said before the question-and-answer session. He added, ?It certainly brought back memories and made me long for the day when we?re in a retractable-roof facility.?

 

All three owners in the franchise?s 15-year history have pushed for a baseball-only stadium with a retractable roof. H. Wayne Huizenga, the founding owner, raised the idea of building a new ballpark at a projected cost to taxpayers of $250 million during the team?s inaugural season, in 1993. That figure has soared to more than $500 million since.

 

But Bob DuPuy, the chief operating officer for Major League Baseball, made securing a new ballpark for the Marlins the league?s top off-season priority. Gov. Charlie Crist, who succeeded Jeb Bush this year, has said that he supports using some state money for new stadiums.

 

?Certainly we?re optimistic,? Samson said. ?It seems as though the stars are aligning right now.?

 

The Marlins have two stars to shepherd the cause, the 25-year-old Willis and the 23-year-old third baseman Miguel Cabrera. They are the only recognizable faces remaining from the 2003 Marlins squad that defeated the Yankees in six games to win the franchise?s second World Series title in less than 10 years.

 

This season, Willis and Cabrera will account for roughly 50 percent of the Marlins? payroll, which is again expected to be the lowest in the league, at less than $30 million. As long as the new stadium initiative is in play, they would appear too valuable to trade.

 

But the Mets, whose starting rotation is a couple of arms short of a championship rotation, coveted Willis last year, his supposed comings and goings the subject of the nonstop conjecture.

 

?It?s really funny because it was almost like I was one phone call away from being a Met,? said Willis, who agreed to a one-year contract last month that is worth $6.45 million.

 

He added, ?I?ve never heard so much speculation, and it?s going on to this day.?

 

A California native who married during the off-season, Willis has put down roots in South Florida, buying a house in North Miami Beach. ?I have a great deal of love and respect for this organization and South Florida and how they?ve embraced me,? he said.

 

But Willis?s future here is on a shaky foundation, seemingly tied to the result of the stadium battle. He is reminded of it all the time.

 

One of Willis?s neighbors, he said, is a Mets fan from Flushing. ?Every time I walk outside, it?s like a countdown to when I?m going to be a Met,? Willis said, laughing. ?They?re all over me every day.?

 

Willis was surrounded by fans of all ages wherever he went Saturday. The line to meet him at a V.I.P. luncheon was longer than the line for the buffet.

 

At the fan question-and-answer session, Willis smiled and nodded like a bobblehead doll when he agreed with something a teammate was saying, which was often. The last question posed to Willis was from Kevin Gutman, a 6-year-old from Wellington, in Palm Beach County, who wanted to know how many games Willis was going to win this season.

 

?31, 32,? Willis said. Smiling broadly, he added, ?Every time I go out there, I want to win for you guys.?

 

Gutman?s father, Ken, a Mets fan going back to his childhood on Long Island, sighed. Of course he would love to see Willis in a Mets uniform, he said.

 

?But they need a star here,? he said, ?so I?ll sacrifice.?

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/11/sports/b...amp;oref=slogin

 

We'll give them something else to talk about when we win the East this year :thumbup

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Thank you Karen Crouse. I see your attitude about the Marlins hasn't changed from your days at PB Post.

 

What I don't get is the two-faced argument that goes - depending on the point you want to make - the Marlins can't afford to keep Willis and Cabrera they are so cash-strapped but then when you want to impune their motives and call them greedy the same writer will argue they put $70 million in their pockets last year before they sold a ticket.

 

Can't have it both ways.

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Did H Wayne ever express the need for a new stadium? A retractable dome stadium? When he owned the stadium they play in now? i believe the Times have their fact wrong! My memory is bad but I believe I would have remembered something said along that way

 

Don't you remember Blockbuster Park? The gigantic complex proposed for the land just southwest of the Miramar Parkway/Interstate 75 interchange? It was supposed to house a baseball stadium for the Marlins, a hockey arena for the Panthers, movie studios, television studios and an entertainment theme park. The residents of Miramar were up in arms and were worried that Miramar Parkway and Pines Boulevard would end up resembling US-192 in Kissimmee with strip malls, motels, and tacky t-shirt stands. The project was DOA. Of course, now that intersection resembles the fifth rung of Dante's Inferno with "cookie-cutter" homes that all look the same another Home Depot/Publix/Target-esque super shopping center.

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