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February 8, 2005

The deal in Florida

• Hiding behind the spectacle that is the Super Bowl this weekend was some interesting stadium news concerning the Florida Marlins. ESPN, in fact, reported on Friday a story called "Marlins secure tentative agreement for ballpark" which rather weakly described a deal the Marlins had reached with the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County to build a $420 million, retractable roof, 38,000 seat stadium next to what is now known as Dolphin Stadium. You may have also seen this story, and if you were like me you found the article to be a little light on the details. So, I have done some investigating.

First and foremost, the Marlins themselves are putting up nearly half the money for the new stadium. According to the team's own website, "The Marlins are contributing $194 million to the stadium, the fourth-largest contribution ever by a baseball team." That is indeed a hefty contribution which makes Pohlad's suggested $120 million look a little pale in comparison. If you'll recall, I recently wrote about this trend of teams putting up half the money for their own stadiums and it looks like this trend is continuing in Miami. I sincerely hope Pohlad is paying attention as I think this kind of contribution from him for a new Twins stadium could put this nightmare behind us. However, let's move on.

$194 million, of course, doesn't pay for the whole stadium. The rest of the money is coming from some usual funding sources. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

... [T]he county pledging $138 million in hotel bed and sports facilities taxes and the city promising $28 million in tourist development taxes. The $32 million garage is expected to pay for itself through parking fees.

The team has vowed to fund cost overruns through a variety of methods, including a lien on the franchise. The team will need to request a $10 million guarantee from Major League Baseball, but that might not be forthcoming.

So, the county is implementing a hotel tax and a nebulous "sports facilities tax" to come up with $138 million. Does the sports facilities tax mean people will be taxed for going to a Dolphins game or a Miami Heat game? I'm not sure, but I like the idea. And it appears the city will make up a large part of their contribution of $28 million with a parking garage that will both raise that money and pay for itself.

In addition, the Marlins agreed to fund cost overruns with a "lien on the franchise" which essentially means the city of Miami can take over the team if the Marlins fail to pay for these overruns. That is something I don't think Pohlad would ever agree with, but I could be wrong.

That leaves a $30 million gap which the team hopes the state can make up:

The Marlins are hoping with local approval, that all three parties will travel to Tallahassee to lobby state legislators -- during their session beginning March 8 -- for a $60 million state sales tax rebate spread over 30 years to cover the final $30 million gap in construction funding. Legislative leaders and Gov. Jeb Bush have said they are willing to listen to the Marlins, if the team brings a completed local financing plan.

Did you catch that last part? Let me repeat: "... if the team brings a completed local financing plan." The team's own website also had this to say:
Last year, the Marlins had their pitch for state help shot down. But the team believes the climate is different, as 2005 is a non-election year. Also, when the Marlins sought the state-tax subsidy, they didn't have a concrete plan or definitive location for a new stadium.(emphasis mine)

I am of the opinion that it is time for the Twins to make a decision. They need to choose St. Paul or Minneapolis, come up with a rock solid plan, and get all their "ducks in a row." They need to show the legislature that they are done trying to play Minneapolis and St. Paul off of each other, and that they have one plan for everyone to vote on. I can't imagine that what has happened in Miami isn't having some kind of effect on their thinking on this issue.

Furthermore, it is time for Pohald to make a real contribution to his own stadium. Can you imagine if he came out and said that he would put up $200 million? Or even the original $160 million? Paying for half is the obviously the new way stadiums are getting built. It happened this way in Washington D.C. (with private money paying for half), it is happening in Florida, and it is the way the Dallas Cowboys are building their new stadium in Arlington.

So, in conclusion, the Twins need to come up with a rock solid plan, and start thinking about paying for at least half. If they did these things I think we might actually see a new Twins stadium in this state.

• Finally, Cheesehead Craig called me this morning at work to bring me this little tidbit he heard on the Half-A$$ morning show on 93X. Randy Shaver of KARE 11 news regularly appears on this radio show to talk about sports news, and today he reported on a potential Vikings sale. According to Cheesehead, Shaver was almost positive that Reggie Fowler has purchased the Vikings and that we will hear something by the end of the week. Shaver has always been sketical about Fowler's ability to buy the team, so for him to come out with this news is, I think, significant. Thanks for the heads-up Cheesehead. If anyone else has any rumors please let me know.

Posted by snackeru at February 8, 2005 8:37 AM | Stadiums


Leave it to me, Cheesehead Craig, crack reporter for the Greet Machine, to bring you the inside scoop.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at February 8, 2005 9:48 AM

Um...the article I read stated the new Marlin's stadium would be built next to the Old Orange Bowl. Perhaps your confusion comes in because they moved the Orange Bowl game over to the stadium formerly known as JRS and now known as Dolphins Stadium (which I suppose is better than having it named after a bankrupt t-shirt company).

In any case, the Orange Bowl is in downtown Miami while Dolphins Stadium is on the Miami-Dade/ Broward County Line next to Calder Race Course, or about half an hour to forty-five minutes north of the old Orange Bowl.

I personally don't like the site, but no one asked me. However, if they are hoping to attract a heavily latin-american crowd from Little Havana, it's probably not a bad location.

Sorry, I can't put that into Twins terms for you, but I wanted to clear up your misconception on the deal.

Posted by: Dianna at February 8, 2005 6:26 PM

Thanks for the clarification Dianna! I am not ashamed to admit I don't know where anything is in Florida. However, truth be told, I don't really care where they are building it. I care a lot, though, that they *are* building it. I wish we could hammer a deal through in Minnesota.

Although, this is far from being a done deal for the Marlins. Do you have any opinion on whether or not this plan will actually pass through the state legislature?

Posted by: Shane at February 8, 2005 8:11 PM

As I see it, the hold up will be with the State. My understanding of the situation is this: When Dolphin Stadium was built, the Dolphins were given a 10-year property tax abatement to help the financing of the stadium, which, given the size of the facility and the surrounding parking, was a pretty big chunk of change. That of course is over and done with. So when the Marlins moved in, someone, maybe Heizinga, I don't know, filed for the Marlins for a tax abatement of some type or other. And that money is going to Dolphins Stadium. However, each professional sports team can claim only ONE tax abatement. Which is why the Marlins were turned down by the State earlier.

Now, whether the fine folks on Monroe Street care to rethink that or not, and give the Marlins some help remains to be seen, especially since it seems simple to me to stop the current abatement or perhaps change it to pay for the financing of a new stadium instead of giving it to Dolphins Stadium.

They still have some funding they will get through naming rights and such which might cover the overruns. (I wonder if they can get a car company to sponsor the names of each floor of the parking garage like Toyota has each of the Dolphin lots named after a different Toyota truck.)

The sports facility tax was not clearly defined, but I've seen it used in other places and it's usually a fee like $1.50 that's tacked onto ticket prices. Whether it will apply ONLY to the new facility or to ALL facilities in Miami-Dade remains to be seen, but having the Heat and the Fins pay for a Fish Stadium would be kind of nice. The Fins because they owe the Fish for stealing their tax abatement and the Heat because well...they'd pretty much be neighbors. However, it might not go over well on with the Morays Arena Football Team or with the re-establishment of Manatees Hockey, both of which rely on low ticket prices to bring people in.

Pity Broward County is still paying of the Panthers new digs. They would built a Stadium for the Marlins in a heartbeat, but they can't fit it into their budget while they are still paying the mortgage on the Sunrise Arena (whatever it's called these days.)

Posted by: Dianna at February 9, 2005 5:30 PM

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