The Florida Marlins’ quest to build a controversial bond-financed ballpark may strike out once again because of new demands being sought in the building contracts.
Those demands led Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez on Monday to ask that further consideration of the contracts by the county be delayed. He called the atmosphere for the county and the city to approve the $515 million deal “toxic” because city commissioners were seeking new concessions from the Marlins.
The city and the county negotiated with the Marlins for months on a contract to finance the 37,000-seat ballpark. City commissioners are slated to vote on the contracts tomorrow, but now the county has postponed its meeting.
The latest delay comes after Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones Friday issued a statement that said the Marlins needed “to step up to the plate and vastly improve the benefits” to her district before she would approve the contracts.
The stadium is part of a complex package of projects approved by the city and the county in a document called the Global Agreement that also provided funding for a financially ailing performing arts center and a tunnel to the Port of Miami that is now in limbo because the Florida Department of Transportation has held up the financing contract.
Spence-Jones said other areas of the city have benefitted from improvements in the Global Agreement, but not hers. She demanded that the city and county authorize a $500 million bond issue to fund redevelopment efforts in her district.
“Any agreement to support the construction of a new stadium must also include concrete job opportunities and use of small businesses in my district with participation during both the construction and operations phase of the baseball stadium,” she said.
Spence-Jones also said the Marlins and Major League Baseball needed to fund a mini-baseball youth academy and offer additional support to organizations in the district that she represents or “the Marlins will strike out.”
The city and county commissioners were scheduled to approve the ballpark contracts in mid-February, but Spence-Jones was on maternity leave and could not attend. The four other city commissioners at their meeting disagreed on whether the contracts provided adequate benefits to the city and postponed their meeting until Spence-Jones could attend. She was expected to be the tie-breaker and vote for the contracts until she made her demands last week.
The Marlins, who currently play in a stadium with the Miami Dolphins football team, have sought a ballpark of their own for years. Several proposals have been negotiated and failed to win final approval over the years.