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Six lies about the Marlins’ new ballpark

May 9, 2011, 9:11 AM EDT

Marlins ballpark

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.

Bam!

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.

  1. drmonkeyarmy - May 9, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    Craig,
    This is an honest question not meant to be condescending or anything: how do you guys pick what stories to blog about each day? Do you scan the local newspapers, get tips from sources? I ask because you guys cover a fairly diverse subject matter relating to baseball and was curious about the thought process in deciding what to blog about.

    • yankeesfanlen - May 9, 2011 at 10:33 AM

      Oh, Craig just looks around to get the Phillies and Yankees fans going, then the minions start a cake vs. pie food fight, or my dog-is-better-than yours (Old Gator sics his crocodile in), and 74 comments later, we’ve all forgotten what the original post was about.

      • heyblueyoustink - May 9, 2011 at 11:02 AM

        Sounds about right…..except you left out the pile on when someone goes total jerk-zilla

      • Utley's Hair - May 9, 2011 at 11:17 AM

        Old Gator sics his crocodile? So gators rule crocs now? Or does Gator wear them? Oh and Luke Scott likes pie.

      • Old Gator - May 9, 2011 at 12:56 PM

        Gator’s Law # 1: Thou shalt not fuck with crocodiles. We know when we’re overmatched. We outweigh them foot for foot, but they are faster, smarter, more maneuverable, and about four to six feet longer – which generally negates the weight advantage. They can also hold their breaths longer, which puts us at a really distinct disadvantage. The crocs in Macondo live in salt water, while we live in mud holes and canals and suffer horribly from agoraphobia as a consequence. And finally, they have been known to pack-hunt, bespeaking a degree of gregariousness and organizational acumen that we, who not only cannot get along with each other for doodly squat but generally don’t even want to hang with ourselves very much, cannot even imagine – our brains being about the size of frijoles negras. Finally, the spoiled rotten Macondo crocs eat almost exclusively feesh, while we eat everything, including people on occasion, mostly drunks, which makes us barf and embarrass ourselves. In fact, we’re so utterly stupid that I would suggest the reason the Feesh draw so poorly is that they play real baseball, while anything as cerebrally challenged as we are can’t wrap our bean-sized brains around any game less obvious and boring than designatedhitterball.

      • proudlycanadian - May 9, 2011 at 1:01 PM

        Remind us again Old Gator. Just what do you really think about the new stadium?

      • Old Gator - May 9, 2011 at 8:18 PM

        Proudly:

        I don’t like any arrangements that use public money to provide facilities for the benefit of private concerns unless there’s a complete payback. Ergo, saving GM and keeping even a nest of complete bastards like AIG from going totally down the crapper were OK because a much more important public good was served in both cases, and in both cases public finds were either completely paid back (in GM’s case with a hefty profit) or are in the process of being paid back.

        The stadium is another story. I’m a huge sports fan but when your school system is imploding, your infrastructure is either deteriorating (our sewers and water conduits are in very bad shape) or lagging hugely behind population growth and development, sorry, it’s just a matter of priorities.

        Like “2 think good” below, I’ve been a Macondo area resident for most of my life – since I was a child, in fact. I also have fond memories of the Orange Bowl and, as a former lecturer at the University of Miami, more than my share of personal investment in the Hurricanes. I certainly want to keep the Feesh in town. The Hurricanes, of course, weren’t going anywhere.

        However, the fiction that a stadium has long term economic upside for a community as a whole has been repeatedly exposed as an urban legend of the grossest sort. In Baltimore, the two new stadiums did indeed appear to spark a renaissance of the southwest side of the harbor but the planning for redeveloping the entire area was comprehensive – urban renewal, tax grants, development grants, modernization of rapid transit, extensive infrastructure construction – they didn’t just plant two playpens there and then let them “work their magic.” Attributing the redevelopment to the stadiums was a myth.

        The bed tax money was designated for development of tourism, which is the economic engine that drives Macondo. The idea that enough tourists are going to attend baseball games at Banana Massacre Field to justify its cost is too idiotic to contemplate seriously. Improving the port and access to it, sure. Developing modern mass transit from the airport to the port or to the beaches, definitely. Improving roadway access to and along the beaches, sure. And if you can’t use all the money for the designated purposes, well, our representatives wrote the charter – it wasn’t handed down from Sinai on a couple of tablets – and despite all appearances they’re not too stupid to rewrite it a bit to make unspent bed tax money available for, oh, hiring a few more teachers to get class sizes down below Favela flophouse density. But to raid that fund well into the foreseeable future to build a stadium for a corrupt, lying shyster like Scrooge McLoria strikes me as an obscenity.

        In connection with Macondo Banana Massacre Field, MLB should have been invited to quit parasitizing metropolitan areas with more pressing needs than baseball stadiums and to raise a fund for new stadium construction itself. Tax abatements and development incentives are fine – we gave them to cruise operators and airlines; I have no problem extending them to MLB as well. I also have no problem with the municipality and state pitching in on infrastructure, like street widening, traffic signal reprogramming, water, sewer and electric service to the new facility. However, as Craig noted last year when I took him to see the stadium in its then extent of development, there wasn’t any work being done on widening or improving the adjacent highway access and there’s still no meaningful vision for mass transit that won’t use the same old narrow streets around the ballpark that the few buses that serve the neighborhood have always used. There’s certainly no broader plan for the neighborhood proper. The stadium will create employment in a construction industry that has imploded with the private home, office building and condo market over the last decade but it will do nothing, repeat, nothing to sustain those jobs due to the utter lack of vision attendant on getting this one structure put up and nothing more.

        Our unutterably corrupt so-called public servants really shirked their responsibility by green-lighting this project before all of its ramifications had been studied – or, more than likely, if they had studied them, they did a fine job of sitting on the reports if not deleting them altogether.

        So, did I make myself clear?

    • Old Gator - May 9, 2011 at 8:24 PM

      I was experimenting with an Estes rocket in my backyard and, with our puppy now housebroken, had filled the nose cone with unused, crumpled up pages of New Times containing the article in question. I never thought it would go so wildly off course that it would come down right in Craig’s flower bed in Columbus, Ohio.

  2. smokehouse56 - May 9, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    drmonkeyarmy – May 9, 2011 at 9:32 AM
    They are paid to blog. Follow the money. In this case, this is a very good column. The stadium deals stinks of political cesspool. The only thing the mayor was good at was spending other peoples money. For that, they fired him, as they should have. If a major franchise needs a new venue that said franchise should pay for the venue. No one is helping the local grocery store or gasoline station improve their business. Why than should the tax payers pay for the Marlins venue when the team will than turn around and charge crazy prices for seating licenses and season tickets or single game tickets, to the very people who were forced to become non sharing partners with the Marlins. As partners, they will not receive one dime in profit. It all goes to the owners and the players. And don’t job me with how the ball park will provide employment, provide more tax money, etc.

  3. shea801 - May 9, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    I thought the first lie was gonna be something like “the new stadium will be sold out with adoring fans”

    • Utley's Hair - May 9, 2011 at 12:24 PM

      That would have had to be the first two lies.

      • Old Gator - May 9, 2011 at 1:08 PM

        I need to set the record straight here a little. The main reason that Miami-Dade county mayor Alvarez got bounced – spiked is more like it, really, considering the lopsided nature of the vote – was that he raised our property taxes substantially in this crushing local recession, so that he and the commissioners could keep their cousin Lopezes and Tio Borrachos on the county payroll instead of having to trim civil service jobs like everywhere else in the country, and then voted themselves hefty raises. Once the recall bandwagon got rolling, the festering issue of the stadium got brought up again, as in “we can’t pay our goddamned property taxes now and these bastards vote themselves raises and go and build a half billion dollar playpen for Scrooge McLoria!” So yeah, most folks when polled after voting brought up the stadium issue, but all of them mentioned the tax increase and raises.

        Incidentally, along with Alvarez, a county commissioner thought to be the moving force behind the raises they awarded themselves, one truly repulsive bovine blowhard named Natacha Seijas, about as close as morbid obesity gets to fielding a Wicked Witch of the North (in this case Hialeah), got bounced as well. And when she hit the ground, local seismologists tracing the shock waves discerned a fault system between Macondo and Fort Lauderdale which indicates that within a few million years, Macondo will have rotated clockwise into the northern coast of South America, making geological reality of what has pretty much been political reality for the last three or four decades anyway.

      • yankeesfanlen - May 9, 2011 at 1:44 PM

        OG- They do the same with property taxes here on the Mosquito Coast, but the populace is a little dim to figure out WHO is taxing them WHAT. Hell, the Mafia even has to pay water authorities to provide ample nepotism.

      • Old Gator - May 9, 2011 at 5:39 PM

        You don’t listen too good. I said Head. Head of the Water and Sewer department….

  4. 2 Think Good - May 9, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    Longtime friend of HBT is right. Craig thanks for the mention and taking the time and space to explore why others may come to different conclusions on this issue. As a long-time resident of Miami, I can remember when the controversy did not involve new stadiums and there was opposition as well.

    The Orange Bowl site was available because the Orange Bowl stadium was allowed to deteriorate without significant improvements for many years. Targeted and expiring sales tax [1 cent] proposals were rejected on various occasions by local voters. Norman Braman led the campaign against those improvements on more than one occasion. Joe Robbie was the villain then.

    Robbie’s frustration with those failed proposals led him to build a stadium using private funds. The financing of the stadium proved to be a disaster for the Robbie family and cost them ownership of the Dolphins. The Miami Dolphins left in 1987 and the Miami Hurricanes followed 11 years later.

    So you’ll forgive us Miami residents who are sports fans if we don’t look at the “Tourist and Convention Development Taxes on Transient Rentals (bed taxes)” and see an opportunity to make a stand against the [corporate] welfare state. We see an opportunity to ensure Major League Baseball remains in the area.

    In a city lacking tradition, attending sporting events at the Orange Bowl site is something Miami residents will have in common from 1938 to at least 2038, with an unfortunate hiatus from 2008 to 2011. To do so, we just had to find a way around the transient mindset of some residents [ex-New Yorkers?] who refuse to invest in our city.

  5. 2 Think Good - May 9, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    Correction – Hurricanes left the Orange Bowl 21 years later, beginning with the 2008 season. That Virginia loss still causes blackout periods.

    • Old Gator - May 9, 2011 at 5:37 PM

      Virginia???? I’ve had brain lesions ever since the Ohio State game.

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