CORAL GABLES, Fla. – When thinking about Miami politics, baseball may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, elected officials, locals and activists in Miami have a reason to be infuriated over a new baseball stadium. Revelations came to light this week that the Florida Marlins had turned a $37.8 million profit at the same time that they were negotiating a stadium deal with elected officials.
The debate over a new baseball stadium is nothing new in South Florida. Even as a child, I heard debates about the Marlin franchise pushing for a place to call their own. What baseball team wants to share a football stadium with the Miami Dolphins? Better question, who wants to drive all the way up to the Miami-Dade-Broward county border to watch a baseball game? These were some of the reasons cited by the Marlins as to why they should have a stadium of their own, as well as “to save baseball in South Florida.”
This sounded like a noble cause to tax payers and some commissioners; after all, the Marlins made it seem like they were fighting for their very existence. Obviously, as red-blooded, baseball-loving Americans we couldn’t let the Marlins fade away. The measure eventually passed and managed to secure city and county funding.
But according to financial statements released earlier this week by sports blog Deadspin.com, the Marlins were in better financial shape than they led on. At the same time that the team was lobbying for public funding of a stadium, they also turned a cool $48 million profit thanks to Major League Baseball and revenue sharing. The next year the Marlins also turned a profit, this time with $37 million. In other words, the Marlins didn’t need the almost $500 million that would come from tax payers.
Before the team was awarded the deal backed by both Mayor Carlos Alvarez and County Manager George Burgess, the Marlins managed to get away with never showing county commissioners their financial records. When asked to show them the books, the Marlins refused citing their right as a private entity. The team even threatened to leave town if they didn’t get their way.
After what seemed like an eternity of debate, County Manager George Burgess presented County Commissioners with a plan in March 2009, arguing that the new stadium would create 3,000 jobs and would ensure that baseball never leaves south Florida. With a 9-4 vote the Marlins got their stadium and wouldn’t have to pay their share of the cost — a mere $150 million — until the end of construction.
In light of the new financial revelations, tax payers are now stuck with an unnecessary $2 billion bill including interest. But that’s OK, because according to the Marlins, Miami residents are saving baseball.
Deadspin.com – Marlins Financial Records
The Miami Herald
Miami New Times