Will the Marlins finally land their long-sought stadium?
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City and county commissioners will vote today on the Marlinsâ€™ proposed $515 million retractable-roof stadium, which would be located at the site of the former Orange Bowl in the Little Havana section of Miami.
The ballpark is part of a larger $3 billion public works project that includes a tunnel for the Port of Miami as well as a downtown trolley line.
If approved, it will mark the final hurdle for the Marlins in their long quest to have a baseball-only facility. Since coming to the league in 1993, they have shared the stadium that the NFL Dolphins play in.
Three of five votes by the Miami City Commission and nine of 13 votes at the Miami-Dade County Commission are needed order for final funding to occur. As reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
The ballpark would be financed mostly from taxes paid by tourists. But county commissioners, some of whom have supported the project in the past, are concerned about pledging a large sum of money during a recession. Some also worry that certain general fund revenue could be tapped as a backstop, should bed-tax dollars run short.
The plan's specifics call for the county to contribute $297 million from hotel bed taxes and $50 million from a general obligation bond issue. The city would provide the land and $13 million in bed taxes, and build $94 million worth of parking garages and lots. The team would contribute $155 million. The Marlins have always stressed they don't want to redirect tax dollars for social services to the ballpark.
There are also questions as to how much total debt cost will be on the facility. The Miami Heard reported earlier this week that no one is certain what the interest rate will wind up being on the construction bonds as the repayment plan was not released by County Manager George Burgess before todayâ€™s votes. The report by the Herald, using repayment schedules for projects in the Miami area, concluded that the final cost could be as low as $528 million, or a far higher figure (the Herald mentions more than $1.1 billion, but that figure is most likely highly inflated based upon calculating money deferred for the project in 2009 dollars, not at project end).
As to whether the credit markets have stabilized sufficiently in order allow debt to be carried, according to the South Florida Business Journal:
County Manager George Burgess said he recently met with Citigroup, Bank of America, J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, and was told they were all interested in doing business with the team for its portion of the stadium funding.
"They indicated that there is an appetite in the marketplace for these types of financings, and that they could secure the team portion of the financing even in today's market," he wrote.
Terrence Oâ€™Grady, senior vice president of municipal trading for FMS Bonds, said recently that the market for issues has improved and rates were near 6 percent, down from 7.5 percent to 8 percent in December.
"It seems like municipal bonds have now started to right themselves, and their timing might be good if they start toward the end of the year," he said.
If approved, the ballpark is slated to open in 2012. The lease agreement would be structured so that the newly renamed â€śMiami Marlinsâ€ť could not relocate for 35 years.
It is uncertain whether the Marlins would wield the relocation stick again, if the votes are not there today for passage. Marlins president David Samson made a cursory visit to Portland, OR, and more substantial discussions occurred with the city of San Antonio about possible relocation. At the time, concerns about the television market size were mentioned by Marlins officials, and Commissioner Selig then threw his support for the Marlins staying in South Florida.
The county's special meeting starts at 1 p.m. ET, while the city started its meeting at 9 a.m.
Those interested can watch the proceedings live online here.
To see all of the following images, plus others in high-resolution:
Proposed Miami Marlins Stadium
ALL IMAGES COURTESY HOK SPORT
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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