Miami-Dade can nix Marlins stadium should numbers come back unfavorable
By Risa Polansky
Expecting bond pricing in hand by Tuesday morning, Miami-Dade Commissioners at a special meeting that day are to have the chance to pull the plug on plans for a new Marlins stadium should bonds go unsold or interest rates run too high.
Some elected leaders indicate they may be flexible on those criteria.
"If we need to kill it, we'll be able to kill it on the 30th," Commission Chair Dennis Moss, a stadium fan, said at a meeting Friday.
Administrators had planned to go to market to finance the $644 million-plus stadium deal in time to share pricing with commissioners at the meeting last week.
Instead, at the request of a bank, they asked commissioners to consider a "technical" amendment to already approved bonding legislation.
That, along with a citizen-requested halt on the bond sale that a judge ended up denying later on Friday, led county officials to push the planned sale to June 29 and 30.
To accommodate anticipated closings on July 13 and 14, the administration also asked commissioners to allow that an easy-out clause built into the stadium deal be shifted from July 1 to July 17.
The clause allows any player — the county, the City of Miami or the Marlins — to walk away from the deal penalty-free.
The three-day cushion between the expected closing and the termination clause's new deadline is meant as a shield "in case the bizarre and unknown occurs" during the closing, County Manager George Burgess told commissioners. "We gave ourselves until the 17th to just be extra cautious."
But the administration should be able to report June 30 whether all of the bonds sold and at what interest rates.
If all goes well, a groundbreaking for the 37,000-capacity, retractable-roof stadium is set for July 18 at the site of the old Orange Bowl.
To ensure the deal doesn't slide through past the easy-out date, commissioner and stadium supporter Natacha Seijas at the Friday meeting suggested making the July 17 termination automatic should financing terms end up unfavorable.
Others pressed the need for commission discussion before killing the long-planned ballpark.
"By making it automatic, it doesn't have to come back to the board [of commissioners] or anything, it just automatically dies," Mayor Carlos Alvarez said.
But certain scenarios might merit discussion, he said.
"If we've only sold 50% of the bonds — done. It's gone," Mr. Alvarez promised. "But what if we're only $10 short?"
Commission Chair Moss agreed.
The commission should "have the flexibility to make the final call," he said, agreeing with the administration to hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss sale outcomes and have the opportunity to trigger the out clause if need be.
"Which," he added, "I don't expect we will."