Miami-Dade Mayor Alvarez doesn't play ball on request to detail his Marlins stadium contract pitch
By Ashley Hopkins
Nearly a week after his deadline to renegotiate Marlins Stadium contract terms, Mayor Carlos Alvarez has not honored the Miami-Dade County Commission's request to provide an update on the status of discussions, leaving commission hands tied.
When Miami-Dade entered into a three-way contract with Miami and the Florida Marlins, it was under the belief that the team was struggling to stay afloat. A 2003 pro-forma attributed to team owners had estimated the Marlins be to $141 million in debt, with equity declining. Copies of Marlins financials that emerged online afterwards, however, showed that in 2008 and 2009 combined the team had netted about $33.3 million.
Concerned that the county entered into a contract for the construction of the ballpark under false pretenses, the commission approved Nov. 4 an item requiring Mr. Alvarez to work to open up stadium contracts within 60 days.
According to Geri Keenan, assistant county attorney, for change to occur the county, the city and the Marlins owners would have to mutually agree to negotiate terms.
While she said the item may appear on today's (1/20) commission agenda, Ms. Keenan added she has yet to see a report on the status of negotiations. Ms. Keenan said if a report is not forthcoming, the commission could put the matter back on the public record, redirecting the mayor to act.
Commissioner Sally Heyman, who sponsored the Marlins resolution, said that as the county is operating under a strong mayor, the commission can do nothing to assure that Mr. Alvarez initiates discussions.
"Unless a miracle happens, all I can say is I'm disappointed," Ms. Heyman said. "This is one more thing the Marlins can fall back on."
Commissioner Carlos Gimenez agreed not many provisions assure that the mayor follows through on commission directives. While he said he doesn't "give much weight or much faith in that the Marlins will try to renegotiate the great deal they have," he said that when pressed for a report, the mayor's office usually complies.
The mayor "owes it to the commission to report on what happened when he tried to open up negotiations," Mr. Gimenez said.
According to construction agreements, Miami-Dade is to contribute $347.5 million to the $515 million project, while the city is to provide $13.5 million and also fund parking construction. Of county funds, $237.5 would be financed through tourist taxes, $60 million though the Convention Development Tax and $50 million through general obligation bonds. The county is to repay two other bond issues over decades at a total of $2.4 billion as part of the stadium financing.
The Marlins are to put $154 million into the deal, $35 million of which will be financed through county bonds and repaid over time. The team is expected to contribute $2.3 million a year in stadium rent, which is included in the $154 million.
While representatives from the Marlins would not comment on whether the mayor had reached out to the team, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado has said that David Samson, the team's president, told the city he would not renegotiate terms for the stadium garage.
Despite the setback, the city passed a November resolution in support of the county's renegotiation efforts. According to Miami City Manager Tony Crapp Jr., while the city has not had any communication with the county since the item passed, it is willing to participate in discussions.
He said, "We are following the county's lead."
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