[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: An Opening Day to Forget? (UPDATE)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

An Opening Day to Forget? (UPDATE)

Monday marks the start of baseball season for the Florida Marlins. Normally, this would be an exciting event for me since I am a big baseball fan and supporter of the Marlins since Day 1. Last year around this time I posted in anticipation of what promised to be an exciting season. While the end result wasn't what many were hoping for, it wasn't a total disaster and the future still seemed bright.

The off-season changed all that. As most of you probably know, Marlins management decided to trade most of the starting lineup in a cost-cutting maneuver. The stadium issue became as contentious as ever, and there's no real hope right now for a solution as the ownership looks around the country for a new home for our local baseball franchise.

There's plenty of blame to go around as to why a stadium deal hasn't been secured here in South Florida. You have city of Miami (not county) officials who are experts at playing hardball to the point of frustrating even the most patient negotiator. You have the lack of interest from Broward and Palm Beach County officials in working with the Marlins. You have an overall lack of fan support, although this aspect is much more complex than it seems.

Mostly, you have to point the finger at the Marlins themselves. So far they have had talks with no less than 4 entities in South Florida: City and County of Miami/Miami-Dade, Wayne Huizenga, City of Hialeah, and City of Homestead. No real progress was made with any of
them. The common denominator: The Florida Marlins, specifically President David Samson.

The bottom line is, they want the public to foot most of the bill for a brand new stadium which will ultimately benefit the owner's pocketbook, not the taxpayers'. Despite the offers of free land and well over $100 million in public money, the Marlins have turned down every offer brought to them in South Florida. As a supporter and season-ticket holder, I am willing to pay my share to help keep them here. However, I don't expect everyone else to have to chip in as well. The Marlins are a private entity.

Major League Baseball is also to blame here. They gave team owner Jeff Loria a hefty loan to buy the team back in 2001. Why haven't they helped close the stadium funding gap here? Isn't it in their best interest to keep and promote baseball here in South Florida?

My personal feeling is that Marlins management want to leave South Florida. All of their statements about wanting to stay and doing everything possible not to leave are lies. They are confident that they can get a sweet deal from some less-than-smart city (San Antonio?) who would be more than willing to give them a ton of money.

The odds are in the Marlins' favor, but it's far from a foregone conclusion.

Want some evidence of this lack of interest in staying here? Look no further than the way they've treated their most loyal fans, the season-ticket holders. In past years, they have bent over backwards to accommodate and reward season-ticket holders. This year, it's been the exact opposite. I didn't receive my bill for the stadium parking until 3 days before it was due. Also, I received my VIP passes for FanFest 5 days AFTER the event. Thanks guys! The letters I've been getting from the team look like they have been cheaply made copies run off by some underpaid intern.

The Marlins complain about lack of season-ticket sales this year. With the kind of treatment they have been giving their loyal customers, it's a miracle they have ANY fans left.

I'll give them one more chance this season, despite the fact that they'll probably end up in last place. But I'm afraid this may be the end of a good run. I hope I'm wrong.

We need baseball in South Florida. Not for the rich owners, but for the fans and for generations of fans to come.

UPDATE: Here's Conductor's opinion on his Marlins blog. And more information on a possible deal in the works between the Marlins and Hialeah here and here. Cross your fingers.


Blogger Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

The University of Miami is a private entity that gets to play in a public building. A building that Miami taxpayers are going to pay $100 million to renovate. The Miami Heat are a private entity. They play in a public building that cost the taxpayers of Miami-Dade County $300 million to build. Every other recent ballpark built in our country has been built either 100% or by a significant majority of public funds. What the Marlins are asking for is neither unheard of or unfair. The Marlins are the only professional sports franchise that has brought champpionships to us since 1973. Baseball is the most affordable sport in South Florida. If we allow the Marlins to leave it will be a shame. And mark my words, a publicly funded stadium will eventually be built to try to lure some other team here and all of this posturing will have been for naught.

Private entities have always and will always benefit from the public trough. Will there be no private entity benefitting from the new performing arts center (Cost: more than half a billion dollars)?

It's easy to demagogue this issue. One can easily point to the schools and the transportation issues and say that those need fixing before we fund a stadium. But the problems with those institutions has nothing to do with money or lack thereof. Increasing property values have created a windfall for local government yet we see no improvement an any significant area. Not building a stadium will not improve our schools one bit. If anyone believes that it will, I have some land in the glades for sale, that I'd like to show them.

1:19 PM, April 01, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

My point isn't that the public shouldn't contribute at all (perhaps my choice of words in the post weren't the best), but they shouldn't foot the vast majority of of the bill. Yes it's been done for other things, and I don't agree with it.

UM contributes to the OB, and there have been plenty of private donations to the PAC. All I'm asking is for the Marlins to be willing to put up their share (which should be substantial), and stop whining about lack of interest from the locals when negotiations fall apart. In the meantime, they're treating their few remaining customers like crap, IMO.

1:59 PM, April 01, 2006  
Blogger photi said...

Loria made some statement saying he was putting out the 4th highest monetary committment of any past MLB owner for a stadium.

But he also gets his loan from MLB forgiven if he can't get a stadium deal done within a certain time.

Both public (City of Miami) and private (Huizenga) talks collapse in the same way - Samson and the Marlins refusing to compromise on their demands.

Now there's a supposed willingness to take on investors in San Antonio, something Loria refused to do here.

What looking like the likely scenario: Make a show of negotiating for a stadium in SoFla, then take the money saved on payments and move to a cheaper, drier climate.

5:53 PM, April 01, 2006  

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