BRADENTON, Fla. — After citing concerns about declining tourist tax revenue and burdening future generations with debt, Miami city commissioners yesterday voted 3-to-2 to approve building a new stadium for the Florida Marlins.
The 37,000-seat ballpark with a retractable roof is expected to cost $515 million and be largely bond financed. Tourist-related taxes will pay back most of the debt, which will to be issued by Miami-Dade County.
The vote on the project has been delayed since February when city commissioners first declined to approve the construction contracts, citing concerns about whether the team’s contribution would benefit the city enough. Then controversy arose over whether tourist taxes, declining due to the souring economy, would support the debt.
“We have never failed to meet an obligation,” Miami-Dade County manager George Burgess told city commissioners yesterday. “We have never defaulted on a bond payment.”
Burgess acknowledged that this is not the “best economic time,” but he also said that the economy will rebound. And he challenged naysayers who viewed the financing as a burden on future generations.
“I would choose to say we are not burdening them, we are making future investments for them,” Burgess said.
He may be faced with making the same argument on Monday when county commissioners — his bosses — will be asked to give final approval to the construction contracts that will enable the project to move forward.
In present-value dollars the ballpark, if approved on Monday, will be funded with $347 million from the county, $155 million from the team, and $13 million from the city.
Miami-Dade would issue the bulk of the debt and repay its share from professional sports franchise facility, tourist development, and convention development taxes. The county also plans to sell $50 million of general obligation bonds for the project as part of its financial obligation to the plan.
The city, which is donating the land, plans to issue less than $100 million of debt backed by a convention development tax to build a parking garage. The Marlins would oversee construction and pay for cost overruns.
Details of the finance plan, and when debt might be sold, have not been made available.
Burgess has said previously that given the current state of the financial markets, the ability to sell the bonds required to fund the stadium is being monitored closely.
The contract includes a termination for convenience clause allowing all parties to walk away from it by June 30 if there are concerns about the ability to meet funding obligations.