Florida Marlins stadium parking project price falls, no new bidding process to take place
By Risa Polansky
When Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado set out to clinch a lower cost for parking at the new Marlins ballpark, he thought he'd have to start over to do it.
Just last month, city officials were considering scratching a nearly six-month bidding process to begin again in hopes of scoring a smaller price tag for the planned four-garage, six-lot project.
But in a late-innings play change, commissioners last week agreed instead to go with Suffolk Construction, the original bid favorite — which says the job can be done for a maximum $75 million.
That's $19 million less than the $94 million parking cost city officials have long cited.
And rather than bonding $120 million to finance it, as commissioners grudgingly agreed to do last year, the city will only have to sell about $92 million in bonds.
"It was common knowledge that this would cost $94 million," Mr. Regalado told the commission last week.
But after the mayor in November deferred the original legislation that would have formally awarded Suffolk the job, the construction company "came to us and through hours and hours of discussion, they have committed to an at-risk price of $75 million," Mr. Regalado said.
"At-risk" means the contractor guarantees a price ceiling, barring any unforeseen complications or city-requested changes.
"Not only we have saved $19 million in the construction to the people of Miami, but also I would say more than $40 million or $50 million in the long run in bonding," he said.
Mr. Regalado, a former commissioner, was one of the most vocal opponents to building the largely publicly financed stadium.
But the city committed to handling parking as part of the roughly $3 billion ballpark project, "so we might as well save money," he said.
City Manager Pete Hernandez jumped in to point out that Suffolk got the job through what he called a "clean" competitive process.
He assured commissioners also that saving money doesn't mean "sacrificing quality."
A few years ago in citing a $94 million price tag, Mr. Hernandez said he remembers being criticized "because my number was too low."
At the time, consultants estimated the parking facilities could cost in the $150 million range.
But "as things changed with the economy, the [$94 million] number became high," Mr. Hernandez said.
Tim Sterling, Suffolk's vice president of Miami operations, said the same.
The $94 million figure was an estimate from "some time ago before we started the process," he said. Today's competitive construction market "drives the cost down relative to labor and fees that we're able to demand in our sector."
Also, because architect Leo A Daly's parking structure drawings are about 75% complete, the contractor was able to get a clear idea of a maximum cost, Mr. Sterling said.
Commissioner Francis Suarez noted that Suffolk has been "working to get to this point for free," which Mr. Sterling confirmed.
Well then, quipped the commissioner, "we welcome any other free work, by the way, in the City of Miami."