Field of Schemes
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May 04, 2011

Miami New Times report: Six lies about the Marlins stadium

My Village Voice Media cousins at the Miami New Times have completed their analysis of the new Florida Marlins stadium, and come up with six big lies about the project. Let us count them off:

  1. Local pols were just doing their best for the taxpayers: "A New Times review has found that the former county commission chairman [Bruno Barreiro], whose district includes Little Havana and the site for the new park, took almost $40,000 in donations in 2008 — one in every six dollars of his total take — from firms with an interest in bidding on the project."
  2. The Marlins can't survive without a new stadium: "In 2008 and 2009, even as the team was begging for a public handout at county hall to build the stadium, it turned nearly $49 million in profit. By [blogger Jorge] Costales's calculation, the Fish have made $300 million in revenue sharing since 2002 and banked at least $154 million in profit."
  3. The stadium will create good jobs: The New Times provides a long laundry list of malfeasance from contractors working on the project, including an electrical contractor that had been "blackballed from county work for almost a decade after its contractors were accused of stealing $17 million," and a sheet metal firm that was sued by the EEOC for allegedly firing an employee who became pregnant.
  4. Fans will love it! The attendance boost from a new stadium only lasts about four years, according to a study by Washington University economist Ron Kamara. Also, "In a random poll of 800 Miamians that [stadium opponent Norman] Braman commissioned before the vote, 57 percent said they hated the new park."
  5. The stadium will revitalize the Little Havana neighborhood: "'If there's any spillover, it doesn't go more than a block or two,' says Neil deMause, author of the 2008 book Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit. 'The whole point of a new stadium is to have all this shopping and food inside so you spend all your money there.'" (As I also pointed out but it didn't make the final cut of the article, having a stadium is hardly going to change Little Havana much given that the Orange Bowl was already there for decades.)
  6. It's too late to change the deal: A pending lawsuit charges that "the City of Miami broke Sunshine Laws, illegally gave the team tax-free land, and improperly tied public money to the project," and is hoping to have the whole thing rescinded (though it's unclear how that would happen, given that the place is already half-built).

All of which is great investigative work, but still none of it can match the article's opening sentence: "Like a festering, silver-plated pustule, a grotesquely huge can opener, or just an obscene ode to wasted cash, the new Florida Marlins stadium is rising above Miami's skyline." Okay, that beats the Bagel Slicer.


You're right, that is a heck of an opening line... question, though, was the investigative reporting team out for a very long lunch whilst beautiful Yankee Stadium was being slated for destruction so that its goulish replacement could rise up next door?

Save Fenway Park!

Posted by Erika on May 4, 2011 10:54 AM

This is the Miami New Times, part of the Village Voice media empire (not a "new Times report" - just realized the original headline could be misleading, added "Miami"). So in other words, *I* was the crack investigative reporting team in the Yankees' case.

Posted by Neil deMause on May 4, 2011 11:00 AM

not surprising, the place was built on lie$.

Posted by Paul W. on May 4, 2011 04:20 PM

Congrats to Elfrink on this piece, it is fantastic.

I hope the citizen's groups can get somewhere with their actions, but I fear they will be squashed under the wheels of what passes for justice.

It would be nice to see a challenge to the validity of the deal given that it was based so heavily on the Marlins losing money... but I'm sure none of the contracts includes the alleged operating losses as the basis for the deal(s).

And they never mentioned that Samson is Loria's step son or son-in-law or whatever, either... talk about playing nice...

Posted by John Bladen on May 4, 2011 05:46 PM

Why can't the MLB Finances blogosphere come up with guidelines for local government funding which would be reasonable in comparison with recent prior deals. It would represent a degree of leverage. Instead, in city after city, public officials with short term incentives, negotiate long-term financing deals. To the extent that teams & MLB can have those negotiations in a vacuum, that is always to their benefit.

I'd like to see the blogosphere do more here than call out 'crooks and idiots' from the sidelines. How about it Neil?

Posted by Jorge Costales on May 5, 2011 02:58 PM

I've done it before - I'll see if I can track down the ten-or-so-point list of "what to insist on in a stadium deal" principles a couple of friends and I came up with a few years back.

The problem, though, is that your question assumes that it's possible to come up with a deal that's "reasonable" for all parties. In way too many cities, the whole reason for the new stadium/arena demand is so that the team can get a massive public subsidy, so there's no way to make the math work unless the taxpayers are getting soaked.

In those cases, this is like asking, "Why can't people stop complaining about bank robbers and come up with a *reasonable* way of getting banks robbed?" That, I don't think I can help you with.

Posted by Neil deMause on May 5, 2011 04:07 PM

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