Miami asks to reopen Marlins stadium talks, team says no
By Jacquelyn Weiner
Miami has joined Miami-Dade County's call to revisit Marlins stadium terms. But it's largely ceremonial, Miami's mayor says.
The reason: Florida Marlins President David Samson has already told the city he won't renegotiate terms for the stadium garage, said Mayor Tomás Regalado, which the city is funding with $101.4 million in bonds. With interest, the city is expected to owe $223.5 million.
"He [Mr. Samson] refused to reopen the contract for the advertising part of the Marlins garage," Mr. Regalado said. "So I don't think that the Marlins will… reopen the conversation with the county."
And amid the attempts to recover public money, Miami is mulling ballpark extensions to planned, government-financed trolley routes.
The Marlins' $515 million stadium is being paid for with $347.5 million in county funds, $154 million from the Marlins — including $35 million financed by county bonds — and $13.5 million plus parking-construction costs from Miami.
When the three-way funding contract was inked, county commissioners believed the Marlins were struggling and in debt. The team refused to share financials, but commissioners OK'd funding anyway.
Then in August, reports emerged online putting the team's 2008 and 2009 net income at $33.3 million — far from strapped.
Now the county wants some of its money from $50 million in general obligation bond funds back.
County commissioners voted Nov. 4 to give Mayor Carlos Alvarez or a designee 60 days to "initiate dialogue" with the Marlins and the city "to determine whether parties would mutually agree to amend stadium agreements to reduce public's contribution."
The mayor or designee is to return with an amended stadium agreement or a report on the status of negotiations.
As of Monday, Mr. Alvarez hadn't contacted the Marlins to revisit the deal, Suzy Trutie, county assistant director of communications, wrote in an e-mail.
The Marlins wouldn't comment on reopening negotiations.
But the county does have the city's support in renegotiating the agreement, voiced through a resolution passed last week.
But some also made it clear they didn't expect much of it.
"This is ceremonial, the truth of the matter is," Commissioner Frank Carollo said.
Meanwhile, the city is looking at extending three of its five proposed trolley routes to the ballpark.
The Health District extension would run down Northwest 12th Avenue, the Biscayne/Brickell extension down Southwest First Street and West Flagler Street and the Coral Way route up Southwest 17th Avenue to the stadium.
Alice Bravo, Miami's director of capital improvements, said a study looking at the cost, ridership and number of trolleys needed to add the extensions is due in December.
While funding is in place for the first few years, Commissioner Francis Suarez said larger entities like the Marlins could be tapped in the future.
"If you can demonstrate, I think, to somebody like the Marlins that you are able to get people there to the stadium," he said, "you might be able to get the Marlins to participate and say "We'll pick up the gap' because it benefits them."