BRADENTON, Fla. - Friday the 13th finally may be a lucky day for the Florida Marlins, the Major League Baseball team that has sought a retractable-roof baseball stadium of its own for about a decade.
Miami and Miami-Dade County officials are holding separate meetings today to act on financing and construction agreements necessary to advance the team's quest to build a $515 million bond-financed ballpark.
Both city and county commissions will hold public hearings on the long-debated issue of building a facility for a professional team. Their meetings begin at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.
"A lot of hard work went into hammering out the baseball stadium agreements," Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez said in a statement. "We've protected the county's interests. Construction must include local firms, small businesses, and meet green building standards. Workers must be provided responsible wages. Baseball will remain affordable. We're not crossing our fingers and hoping these promises hold true. We've got it in writing."
While there has always been some opposition to the project, a growing number of people have questioned its feasibility given the current economy.
Hundreds of people have signed a petition against the stadium sponsored by an organization called Coalition Against Marlins Bailout, which calls the baseball stadium agreement "an irresponsible business deal" negotiated behind closed doors.
The coalition calls the ballpark deal "corporate welfare."
The construction agreement before commissioners today provides for the planning, design, and construction of a 37,000-seat, natural-grass stadium, to be built on 17 acres of land on the former Orange Bowl site, owned by the city of Miami. The old Orange Bowl stadium has been razed in preparation for the new ballpark, which the county will eventually own.
The stadium will be funded with $347 million from the county, $155 million from the team, and $13 million from the city.
The county will repay its share of whatever debt it issues for the project from a combination of revenues from its professional sports franchise facility tax, tourist development tax, and convention development tax, and also will use the proceeds from $50 million of general obligation bonds. The city plans to issue debt backed by a convention development tax.
Whether the debt can be sold given current tight credit markets is another question addressed in the city and county agreements with the Marlins.
"Given the current state of the financial markets, the ability to sell the bonds required to provide our funding contribution is being monitored closely," said a project summary prepared by county manager George Burgess. "While it is recommended that we move forward with the deal at this time, a termination for convenience clause has been included to allow all parties to walk away from this deal by June 30, 2009, if concerns remain regarding the ability of any party to meet its funding obligations."