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Stadium deal by the end of the week?

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Marlins inching closer toward stadium


12/18/2007 10:48 PM ET

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com


MIAMI -- They haven't yet crossed home plate, but the Marlins' push to secure the final pieces of stadium funding moved firmly into scoring position on Tuesday as a result of two votes of approval by the Miami-Dade County commissioners.

During an exhaustive day, during which roughly eight hours were devoted to matters related to the stadium, the Miami-Dade County commissioners passed two items that increased the chances of a retractable-roof ballpark being built at the Orange Bowl site.


Early in the afternoon, by an 11-2 vote, the commission approved allocating a $50 million general obligation bond toward the project. Then, close to 7 p.m. ET, the commissioners voted, 9-4, in favor of a global agreement that includes a number of ambitious projects for the city of Miami and the county.


Another piece of funding for a baseball stadium was included in the global package, a wide-ranging $3 billion initiative that also includes construction of a tunnel for the Port of Miami, a downtown streetcar and museums.


Tuesday's developments have the Marlins significantly closer to home plate. However, there remains some unfinished business regarding the stadium as it pertains to the global agreement. The commissioners have agreed to review, item-by-item, all that is attached to the deal.


The stadium is scheduled to be discussed on Thursday.


"This is the biggest vote to date," Marlins president David Samson said of the commissioners' approvals. "But the next vote would be the biggest vote ever."


The Marlins, working with Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami, are seeking a baseball-only facility on the Orange Bowl grounds. The entire cost of the stadium will be $525 million.


As part of the negotiations, the Marlins have agreed to rename themselves the Miami Marlins, which would go into effect in 2011.


"That's something we've talked about internally, and that's not a big bone of contention between the parties," Samson said.


The Marlins are contributing $155 million toward the proposed 37,000-seat park. Additionally, the club will be on the hook for all cost overruns.


"That really has not been a great issue for years," Samson said. "We've always agreed that if we had control over all items of construction, then we would be responsible for all cost overruns. That has never changed, nor is there disagreement among the participants."


Samson added that the next 48 hours are crucial, because the team is working against the clock on finally completing a stadium deal. The Marlins are under lease to play at Dolphin Stadium through 2010, and the urgency has arisen to finalize a new stadium and begin construction.


The next step is reaching a binding agreement by the end of the week, which would allow all parties to move forward in hopes of drafting final design plans as early as January.


Assuming the Marlins get more positive news on Thursday, Samson said then a "binding stadium agreement" will be reached.


"That's when we will have a stadium deal," Samson said.


After leaving a long day of meetings, Samson said he plans on working the next 48 hours with the city of Miami and county on securing the final pieces of a complex puzzle.


"There has to be three parties at the table who understand the necessity to do a deal quickly," Samson said of working with the city and county. "And to compromise, and get to the finish line quickly ... after all these years."


Early in the afternoon, the Marlins received their first piece of good news on the stadium front with the passing of the $50 million bond agreement. Those monies originally were voted on for renovations to the Orange Bowl. Now that the University of Miami football team is moving to Dolphin Stadium next season, the Orange Bowl is being vacated.


Yet the $50 million was voted on to be used for an Orange Bowl facility, and the commissioners simply switched that sum to the baseball stadium project.


Miami-Dade County would own the proposed stadium.


For about a decade, three different Marlins owners have tried to land a baseball-only stadium. This is the furthest down the road the team has ever been to reaching its goal. In the past, on more than five occasions, the team sought state assistance, only to be rejected by the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee. The project being discussed now does not include any state help.


A number of specifics regarding the stadium have not yet been disclosed, but the lease between the team and the county would be at least 30 years. The construction timeframe has shortened from 34 months to 29 months, in hopes of the Marlins moving into a new home by April 2011.


"The lease terms, we'd be there at least 30 years, but as far as the time line for construction, we're still working on that," Samson said.


A sentiment by Commissioner Dennis Moss is to have the Homestead baseball complex, which has never hosted Spring Training, to be a Spring Training option for the Marlins or some team in the future.


The Marlins are signed to stay at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla., for at least 14 more years.


"We have an agreement to remain in Jupiter for many, many years," Samson said. "But we agree with commissioner Moss, and we'd be happy to work with him, and we support any refurbishment of a baseball facility, no matter where it is, because when people are supporting baseball, we're building fans."


This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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