After a long, long day of hearings that included two stadium opponents being hauled off in handcuffs for shouting “Good jobs, no stadium!” the Miami-Dade Commission voted 9-4 to approve the Florida Marlins‘ $634 million stadium deal, with no amendments. Following Thursday’s Miami City Commission vote, this gives final approval to the team’s stadium plan, 12 years, three owners, and several hundred million dollars in cost increases after it was first proposed. Construction is expected to begin this summer, and be completed in time for the 2012 season.
…unless. There is still one final hurdle remaining for the plan: If the city or county isn’t able to sell stadium bonds by July 1, either party can back away from the deal. It’s a bit unclear what constitutes “unable” in this scenario — even in this economic turmoil, it should be possible to sell bonds if you jack up the interest rate enough — but it’s conceivable a government entity could back away from the deal if it proves too rich for their blood: Previous projections have shown that hotel-tax revenues would likely fall well short of paying off the county’s stadium bonds, and county manager George Burgess was forced to resort yesterday to assuming hotel spending will leap 15% in 2011 to make the numbers work out.
In all likelihood, though, yesterday’s vote means the bagel slicer will become a reality, and the team will in three years’ time become the Miami Marlins. If so, how does this deal stack up against previous stadium deals? Let’s recap the numbers:
The county will now put in a whopping $359 million for stadium construction and roads and utilities, mostly from tourist taxes. While the Marlins argued that tourist-tax money legally can’t be used for anything other than tourism projects, the way the county got these funds for the stadium in the first place was by funneling off new tax money to pay for what the tourist taxes had been previously pledged to — meaning the cost will ultimately come out of the county’s general fund.
The city puts up $119 million, mostly to build parking garages for the team.
The Marlins kick in $155 in private funds, a good chunk of which will likely come from the sale of naming rights, assuming there are still any corporations left to buy naming rights in the future.
The team pays cost overruns on the stadium itself, taxpayers cover overruns on everything else, including the garages.
The team gets all revenues from the stadium itself, paying only $35 million in rent (part of its $155 million contribution). The city will receive revenue from parking at the new garages, and the Marlins have agreed to purchase some of the spots up-front for resale.
So the public puts up almost exactly three-quarters of the cost, and the team gets virtually all of the revenues. That’s not quite as bad as the Washington Nationals deal, but it’s in the same, er, ballpark, especially when you consider that virtually all of the spending at the Marlins’ new home will be cannibalized from existing spending elsewhere in Miami-Dade County — unless you really believe that more people will schedule summer vacations to Florida so that they can see the Marlins play.
Miami residents, in the end, will be paying a high, high price to free themselves from the team’s constant move threats and get to watch ballgames without fear of getting rained on. Now that the deed is done, you have to hope that at least more fans will actually use the place than turned out to be the case in D.C., or this could be another boondoggle for the ages.