Commissioners OK plan to have Marlins change name, spring-training site
By Wayne Tompkins
The Florida Marlins would conduct spring training in Homestead and change their name to the Miami Marlins as part of a deal for a new stadium under a county commission committee's resolution passed last week.
The resolution sponsored by Commissioner Dennis Moss, whose district includes parts of South Miami-Dade, sailed through an enthusiastic Miami-Dade Airport and Tourism Committee.
Mr. Moss said spring-training games at Homestead Baseball Complex would reinvigorate the stadium and create an opportunity for fans in the southern part of the county and the Florida Keys to see the Marlins play.
It also would bring in tourist-tax revenue to help fund the county's share of a new stadium, he said.
Marlins officials are poker-faced about Mr. Moss' proposal. Team spokesman P.J. Loyello would say only that the team's lease at its current spring-training complex, Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, runs through 2022.
Homestead city officials have said the baseball complex built in 1991 for the Cleveland Indians, who never went there and moved their spring base to Winter Haven after Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, would need some upgrading but could accommodate spring training.
College baseball teams have been the primary users of the 6,500-seat baseball stadium at 1601 SE 28th Ave.
County commissioners at the committee meeting vented their frustrations over plans to build a stadium for the two-time world champions.
"If there has been a pregnancy longer than this one, I don't know of any other," Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said of often-blocked efforts to have a retractable-roof ballpark built in the county. The estimated cost of building a stadium in downtown Miami has reached $490 million.
A bill for a $60 million, 30-year sales-tax rebate to help fund a stadium failed to come up for a vote in the Florida Senate before the end of the legislative session. Under the proposal, the county would own and finance a stadium but the Marlins would build it and absorb cost overruns.
The Marlins currently play in Dolphin Stadium, where their lease is set to expire in 2010.
"The state didn't give you a penny. That means you don't belong to Florida," Ms. Sosa said in discussing the team's name. "We are going to build a stadium, so you belong to Miami, to Dade County."
Commissioner Carlos Gimenez expressed frustration with the Legislature, which also failed to complete a vote on stadium funding last year.
"Waiting for this state money has probably cost us a couple of hundred million dollars," Mr. Gimenez said. "If we'd just gone ahead and built it, it would have cost us a lot less. Forget the state. It's not going to happen. Sixty million (dollars) can be value-engineered. It's not the end-all."