Miami-Dade county commissioners finished a seemingly endless quest to build a baseball-only facility for the Florida Marlins, approving the plan for a 37,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium at the site of the old Orange Bowl.
The franchise, which will be renamed the Miami Marlins when the team begins play at the new park, hopes to break ground on the $625 million project by July in order to meet the scheduled 2012 opening. Read the rest here
Opinion on new Miami stadium from Neil deMause of Baseball Prospectus (www.baseballprospectus.com):
It’s official: After more government hearings than you can shake a fungo bat at, the Miami-Dade County Commission gave final approval yesterday to the Marlins‘ plan for a $634 million stadium on the former site of the Orange Bowl. Assuming bonds can be sold by July — never a sure thing in our new economic reality — construction will begin this summer, with the team’s big bagel slicer opening in 2012, at which point the team, as part of the deal, will become transmogrified into the Miami Marlins.
I run through all the financing details over at Field of Schemes, but the upshot is: The city and county are putting up about three-quarters of the cost, and the team reaps virtually all of the revenues. This isn’t the worst baseball stadium deal in recent memory (that’d be the Nationals), but it’s a significantly worse split for taxpayers than the Yankees, Mets, and Cardinals deals (and on a par with the Twins‘), and shows that Great Recession be damned, elected officials are going to keep buying the argument that public subsidies for sports facilities are good for localities, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
That aside, though, what does this mean for the future of the Miami Marlins? They’ll be staying put, for one thing — if San Antonio or Portland wants an MLB team to play footsie with in the future, they’ll have to ring up the A’s. As to whether they’ll be rescued from the bottom echelon of low-revenue teams, that’s less certain: Much will depend on whether Miami’s sizable population starts turning up for games once there’s no longer a threat of getting spritzed on by Mother Nature, or it turns out that baseball in Florida in the summer just isn’t a big draw. If I had to wager a guess, it’s that the Fish will turn into one of those draw-when-they’re-winning, draw-flies-when-they’re-losing sorts of teams — which is certainly better than they’ve done before, but unlikely to let them compete with any of the bigger dogs in their division in terms of revenue.
So Marlins fans, if you’re out there, rejoice at not having to listen to David Samson’s move threats anymore; worry about what ticket prices are going to look like once the team only has 37,000 of them to sell even without help from tarps; and be prepared for more years of trying to win on the cheap. Though that hasn’t worked out too badly for them in the past.