If stadium talks resume, team wants league to join
By Paola Iuspa
If the Florida Marlins resume talks with local governments on building a stadium in downtown Miami, the commissioner of Major League Baseball may have a seat at the negotiating table.
Although the Marlins recently halted talks on building a stadium, the team asked the league for "a more direct and active involvement in the continuation of our discussions" when talks begin again, according to a letter the organization sent last week to Carlos Gimenez, Miami city manager.
Julio Rebull, team executive vice president, said the Marlins decided to get Major League Baseball involved because it had helped other teams work out deals with governments to build stadiums.
Richard Levin, league spokesman, said Tuesday it has the experience and is willing to help the Marlins find a new home. Mr. Levin did not want to name teams the league had assisted in getting new ballparks.
Mr. Rebull said the Marlins do not know when negotiations with Miami-Dade-County and Miami officials will resume. Owner John Henry wants local governments to help pay for the stadium.
David Ginsberg, Marlins vice chairman, wrote in the Sept. 20 letter that although the stadium is a key element in the future of the Marlins, the team and the Major League Baseball "believed it was appropriate to take a step back from those discussions" and try to deal with the ramifications of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Mr. Henry had also told Miami commissioners via an earlier letter Sept. 13 that the tragedy's effect on the financial industry and his own commodities brokerage prompted him to request the commission's "forbearance in matters relating to a new ballpark."
In response, commissioners gave him 60 days to come up with a letter of understanding detailing a proposed agreement.
Some think the stadium deal may not move forward in light of months of delays and the aftermath of terrorism striking the economy.
Miami-Dade County officials, who promised to pitch in $118 million in convention development taxes to help build a $500 million stadium, are not sure they have that money anymore. The tax is generated by tourism revenue that is lagging.
"The county is in the process of ranking the needs relative to the outlook of the [tourism] tax revenue stream," said George Burgess, executive assistant county manager.
County Commissioner Jimmy Morales said the idea of financing a ballpark is not so attractive anymore.
"The ballpark is in serious trouble: there you are starting to have far less cushion," he said. "At this point, we know it's not prudent to commit ourselves to a baseball park"
In principle, city commissioners had agreed in July to finance the stadium through bonds that would generate $150 million, a sales tax rebate on the parking surcharge for $23 million and creation of a Miami River Tax Increment District that would provide $30 million. None of these terms was formally approved. Under this plan, the Marlins and the county were left trying to finance the remaining $179 million.