Field of Schemes
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August 27, 2010

MLBleakgate Watch: Miami mayor threatens Marlins garage money

Okay, now it's the mayor of Miami (not to be confused with the mayor of Miami-Dade County — that wacky Florida!) who wants to see about getting money back from the Florida Marlins on their stadium deal, now that it's official that the team has been earning big profits. And Mayor Tomas Regalado knows just what money he wants to recoup: the $100 million Miami is set to spend on parking garages for the new stadium.

Regalado asked city attorney Julie Bru whether the city -- which recently declared a state of "fiscal urgency" amid dwindling revenues and a gaping budget hole -- has authority to reopen the parking contract. ...
As a commissioner, Regalado voted against the stadium deal.
Now, citing leaked financial reports showing the team turned a $49 million profit the past two years, the mayor wants the city to receive 100 percent of the advertising revenues from signs that would adorn the garages. The deal now calls for a split.
"If the answer is in the positive, I would like to bring this issue to the city commission in September or October," Regalado wrote to Bru. "If the answer is in the negative, what recourse do we have to expose those who misinformed the commission and public during a public hearing?"

It seems pretty unlikely that Miami will be able to wriggle out of its garage commitment, but it'll sure be interesting to see Regalado try. If nothing else, Jeffrey Loria and David Samson can expect to be beat up plenty more in the local media so long as they insist on sticking to the original terms of the deal — but somehow I think they'd rather pay that price than one with dollar signs attached.


What I don't get is why the cities agree to a contract in the first place. If they have to build a stadium for a team, why don't they take the approach of "OK, we'll start building now, but if the economy changes, or we find out you've been lying through your teeth about your finances, or a new administration comes in, or whatever, and we find that building you a stadium is no longer viable, we reserve the right to tear down the stuff that WE PAID to put up and cut our losses."

If Miami had come to the Marlins with that deal, what would the Marlins have done? Would they have said, "No, screw you, we're trying Vegas?" Of course not. So why couldn't the city have used the leverage it had (rhetorical)?

Posted by Brian on August 27, 2010 03:21 PM

You bring up good questions, Brian.

Another good clause would be that the team promises to field a competitive team with their newfound riches. If they want to field a AA baseball team in Pittsburgh, then they should have oodles of cash to help the city out with the stadium.

Another clause I'm curious about is why there are any escape clauses at all? Escape clauses make about as much sense to a city as player-option clauses make for a team. Oh, you suck and are going to "honour" the remaining 5 years of your bloated contract? Awesome.

I think the better question is why congress can care about what Roger Clemens is pumping into his body to get all those extra innings and strikeouts but they are powerless to probing into the arena/stadium financing schemes that are financially choking out cities?

Somewhere out there is a law waiting to be enacted that will put an end to all of these excessive civic-funded arenas. Major sports teams will have little to no leverage to force their way out of markets and will actually have to invest in their markets to see a higher return. Call it a return to capitalism.

Posted by Andrew on August 27, 2010 11:21 PM

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