May 9, 2011, 9:11 AM EDT
We’re going to be hearing a lot of glowing reviews of the Marlins’ new ballpark as the finishing touches are put on it over the course of the next 9-10 months or so. And for good reason. From what we’ve been able to see of it in artists’ renderings and in the photos of it in its partially-completed state, it looks beautiful. It’s replacing an awful place for baseball. And the hype will definitely increase if the Marlins continue to play great baseball as they have thus far this year.
But as that hype grows louder and the ballpark takes final shape, it’s worth noting all of the b.s. that went into its planning, financing and construction. Helping us do that is this feature that appeared in the Miami New Times last week that pulls absolutely no punches:
Like a festering, silver-plated pustule, a grotesquely huge can opener, or just an obscene ode to wasted cash, the new Florida Marlins stadium is rising above Miami’s skyline. Whether you’re driving down a tree-shaded block in Little Havana or cruising the Dolphin Expressway to South Beach, there it is: a $515 million money sucker that is probably the worst deal for taxpayers of any stadium in America.
I don’t know if I’m in any position to judge whether or not the ballpark is truly the worst for taxpayers, but taxpayers aren’t exactly happy with how the deal went down. One of the primary architects of the financing plan for the joint was former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, who was recently recalled by voters in one of the most lopsided countywide electoral margins in history. According to Old Gator — who, despite what you think of his take on cheesesteak, knows the goings-on down in his Macondo — a huge proportion of those voters polled stated that the stadium deal was one of the biggest reasons that they voted to dump him.
As for the specifics of the Miami New Times article, longtime friend of HBT Jorge Costales, who was quoted in the article, makes several clarifications over at his blog. For what it’s worth, Jorge is pro-stadium and was actually pro-taxpayer funding for the stadium as far as it went. But he has been a sharp critic of Jeff Loria and the Marlins’ claims of poverty that helped get the deal done.
And I think that’s where I come down. Personally, I am against taxpayer funding for ballparks. I can understand, however, why some folks like Jorge take a different side of this depending on the specifics of the funding, the need for the stadium, the location and other factors. All politics is local, and there’s a direct correlation between one’s knowledge of a given area and one’s righteousness in taking a strong stance on the matter. When I speak about ballpark funding it’s usually a philosophical matter, and that only gets you so far.
But no matter the merits of any specific plan, the case for a ballpark has to be made honestly. And it seems fairly clear to me that the case for the Marlins’ new palace was not made honestly. That’s something that should be remembered when the place opens up next spring.
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