Regalado: CRA money shouldn't be dangled in stadium talks
By Risa Polansky
Community redevelopment money is not a carrot to be dangled in front of Florida Marlins or Major League Baseball officials — or anyone looking to dip into the resources to back efforts disguised as development projects, Miami City Commissioner Tomás Regalado said.
Mr. Regalado's comments followed City Manager Pete Hernandez' announcement at a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting last week that $15 million in CRA funds was earmarked for the project.
"I think it's unfair to use the excuse of redevelopment for the area in order to use the funds that are supposed to be used in real development for the poor area," Mr. Regalado said. "It is unfair to the Marlins, to the city manager, to the county manager, to anyone involved for them to know maybe we can use these funds or maybe not. So let's vote on it."
Mr. Regalado proposed a resolution for the Miami Community Redevelopment Agency board — the five Miami city commissioners — "clearly stating that no CRA funds should be used for the project of the baseball stadium, the port tunnel, the performing arts and the streetcar," he said. "It's on the draft agenda (for March 26). Even if it's pulled for some reason, I will bring it as a pocket item anyway" calling for a vote even though it doesn't appear on the agenda.
A majority of the CRA board voted informally last month to reject a proposal to spend agency money on a ballpark.
Now, Mr. Regalado is looking to put an end to a string of promises by Miami city officials who until last week continued to name redevelopment monies as a funding option for a ballpark despite the agency board's resistance as well as opposition from county commissioners.
City Commissioners Regalado and Michelle Spence-Jones, chairwoman of the CRA, said last week that they would vote no on any stadium plan involving redevelopment funds, causing Mr. Hernandez to change his tune.
"Both the county and the city administrators received a very strong message that commissioners were very concerned," Mr. Regalado said. "As we continue to negotiate with Major League Baseball and the Marlins and finalize our financial plan, it looks that we should not consider CRA money for the construction of the stadium.
"We have to put our vote where our mouth is," he said. "We need to send a clear message — we cannot be on the fence."
Tourist-tax dollars would be a more appropriate source of funding for the city's $108 million contribution to the stadium project, he said.
"The tourist dollars collection went up," he said. "Tourist dollars are meant to be used for that."
Miami commissioners unanimously passed a resolution allowing Mr. Hernandez to continue negotiations with the county, Major League Baseball and the Marlins to pursue a stadium.
They removed the site-specific aspect from the plans, resistant to committing to a downtown location they fear would inhibit the completion of two projects in the area — a children's courthouse and police training facility.
The consensus among commissioners was to further explore the Orange Bowl as the Marlins' future home.
"We're glad to have that option open again," said Commissioner Joe Sanchez.
He said plans to put millions of dollars in bond money into Orange Bowl renovations simply for use by the University of Miami football team doesn't make as much sense as using the money to create a baseball stadium on the site.
"We should put it to good use," he said of the allotted funds and the land. "I think the best use would be to put a stadium on the site."
The Hurricanes are likely on their way out, former Miami city manager Joe Arriola said Monday morning on a sports-talk show on WAXY. They are 90% likely to move to Dolphin Stadium, he said, calling the days of the Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl "numbered if not over."
That poses a potential problem for the FIU Golden Panthers, who plan to play their upcoming football season in the Orange Bowl as construction begins on their new stadium on campus.
If the city were to begin work on a baseball stadium, FIU would need to find another temporary home.
Those issues notwithstanding, Ms. Spence-Jones agreed that "the Orange Bowl is the best location for the stadium" but said she hopes the CRA boundaries for the Overtown and Omni districts will be expanded to further support redevelopment in the area.
She said she would like to see "the same level of excitement" officials have exhibited toward the Marlins toward expanding the life and boundaries of the CRA, she said.