[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Marlins Stadium Saga (UPDATED)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Marlins Stadium Saga (UPDATED)

As the Marlins' stadium deal continues to flounder and the back-and-forth between Carlos Alvarez and Miami city commissioners heated up last week, let me attempt to approach the whole stadium issue from a ever-so-slightly different tack.

Before I explain, let me set a little background music. I had the pleasure of having lunch with Jorge the other day, and the topic of the stadium came up as both of us are supporters of the stadium efforts. Jorge is by far the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to Marlins and stadium finances. Also not to be ignored is the ever-versatile Henry Gomez, who in his Fish or Cut Bait blog came up with one of the best explanations in favor of a stadium that I've seen:
Now I'm not a big fan of subsidies, especially at the federal level because a lot of has to do with social engineering (like subsidizing corn ethanol which is a money loser and is driving up the price of food). I have no problem with tax breaks for corporations but honestly I'd like to see lower across the board tax rates for corporations if not the complete repeal of corporate taxes. But that's a discussion for another day. My point is that in the real world we help out individual businesses when we feel the benefit outweighs the cost.

That's why we build county facilities like the airport to serve private businesses like the airlines. That's why we build a performing arts center (ed. Arsht Center) that can be used by private organizations that produce such entertainment.
Obviously, Henry draws a line in the sand. If you think a successful baseball franchise is something worth having, hop on board. If not, then there's not much else I can tell you. I am willing to agree that the current stadium deal is far from perfect. In fact, in some cases it stinks on ice. Those who are against the current deal, but in favor of the Marlins being a successful and viable entity in South Florida, I don't have a big problem with. I DO have a problem with the prevailing attitude that the Marlins should pretty much take a hike if they can't foot the entire cost of a new stadium.

To me, this stadium issue is in many ways reflective of where we are and where we want to go as a community. A key component of any community is how it takes care of its arts and entertainment institutions. Think about all the progress we've made in the arts in recent years: the Arsht Center and the proposed Museum Park, for example. Also, think about the many failures: Florida Philharmonic, Concert Association of Florida, Miami Fusion, Coconut Grove Playhouse, Orange Bowl Parade, the Orange Bowl Stadium...I'm sure I missed a few, but you get the idea.

When it comes to stewarding our institutions, we're just not very good as a whole. In fact, we're often downright hostile. Not exactly a nice way to portray ourselves as a community. "We have bad and corrupt politicians", you may argue. Yes we do. So do a lot of other places, but they manage to execute complex deals involving public AND private interests. Why? I'd like to think that people in other places spend more time and energy trying to come up with solutions rather than identifying the problem over and over again. "Just Say NO" should be South Florida motto. It fits us like a glove, I'm sad to report.

When Miami commissioners Sarnoff and Spence-Jones sprang up at the last second and threw obstacles in the way of the stadium deal, that's hostile. Not in the act of opposing the deal, but the manner in which it was done. When people complain about stadium funds that should instead go to schools and transportation, when in fact it CAN'T be done, that's a sign of an ignorant populace that our politicians prey upon.

County mayor Carlos Alvarez is a decent and honorable man, in my opinion. His vocal support of the stadium may or may not be on solid footing, but I think I know where he's coming from:
'Sincere and earnest work and meticulous and deliberate negotiations have been hijacked,'' Alvarez said Tuesday. ``The best intentions have been morphed into unreasonable demands that have nothing to do with baseball.''

...

''Quite frankly, I'm appalled as a citizen of Miami-Dade County,'' Alvarez said. He said if his fellow elected officials keep demanding concessions in exchange for their votes, ``we will never get any major project done in this community.''
Civic pride shouldn't make us blind, but it encourages good faith efforts to get things done. If the current deal is bad, let's iron it out without the grandstanding and without non-sensical comments from residents who think the stadium will take food away from people's mouths. If New York, Washington D.C., and many other cities can agree on complex stadium deals for their teams, why can't we? Wanting the best for a community doesn't mean throwing people under the bus simply because they want their baseball team to have a modern facility in which to play in. It means working in good faith and honestly ironing out differences. That's how things get done in life, when you care.

I encourage everyone who stuck with this to the end to visit Jorge's site and read his many posts on the subject, especially those comparing the Marlins stadium with other new projects around the country.

UPDATED (11 AM): Jackie Bueno Sousa fairly looks at both sides of the issue and brings up some interesting statistics in today's Herald.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Steve said...

What about Glenn Straub's offer to privately build the stadium? What about the issues of what would happen if the Marlins get sold (and it isn't as though the Marlins seem so dedicated to the area?). All these points are ignored by Jorge's post.

Jorge's basic view is the money is coming mainly from the county, so why shouldn't the city want to have the county spend its money here? To me this isn't such a compelling argument.

His big point is: "As I've said here before, can anyone prove to me that NOT building the ballpark will solve the problems our community faces?" Of course, you can't prove a negative like this but somehow, even Robert can appreciate that spending public funds tend to have lives of their own and can't these funds be used to displace tax receipts in some way? Have we also really exhausted all our thoughts about how to better spend these funds?

The hotel tourism tax should be used for tourism development and this is a key local industry that drives real economics here. I really don't think that tourists are going to come to Miami in the Summer to see a Marlin's game. I also don't see how 80 odd games a year creates many jobs other than for part-time concessions.

10:10 AM, March 09, 2009  
Blogger Robert said...

Steve,

You bring up some good points. Straub's offer may be generous, and under ideal circumstances it would be great, but he's fixated on the land near the Government Center which MLB has already said NO to.

Of course Jorge's arguments aren't perfect - just like everyone else's. But I think while those who are stridently pro-stadium may be willing to overlook key facts, so do those who are adamantly against the project. That I believe is Jorge's point, that the entire picture isn't really being told in proper context by local media.

The funds for these type of projects are only to be used for tourism-related facilities and projects. Speaking of which, as someone who attends a fair share of games, I can tell you that in almost every game there's someone in my section who is visiting from out of town and decided to check out a game. This is at the current location which is far from any place a tourist would even want to visit. Except for big games and playoff/World Series, it's true most tourists won't visit the area for the sole purpose of attending a sporting event. It does however add to the entertainment offerings this area has to offer, and we're better for it, IMO.

10:32 AM, March 09, 2009  
Blogger Abel said...

The problem is that you ignore the numbers. Just because tax money that will be used for the stadium can't go to education, transportation, or any other services doesn't mean, well, let's just throw it at a stadium. Maybe you don't have a problem with the government throwing your money around at what they think is best, but even us liberals like to watch where our money goes.

Attendance for the Marlins is always low, even when they are winning, compared to other teams and cities' populations. The fact of the matter is that that is NOT going to change by building a huge stadium in a low-income area with little to no easy transportation or shops around. What you'd be doing is throwing the citizens under the bus, because we'd have to pay not only the taxes for the damn thing, but then the abnormally high prices to get in, and then the disgustingly high prices of $5 for a hot dog and $3 for a soda. Tell me, where does the citizen gain the upper hand here?

I'd like to think for once that a politician has the community's best interests in mind, and sometimes it seems that Commissioner Sarnoff is the only smart person on that council.

Look closely at the deal, and you'll see that every step of the way, it's the citizens and taxpayers who get the short end of the stick, and in every possibility we are the ones who are footed with the bill. That's not fair, and that's not right.

9:53 PM, March 09, 2009  
Blogger Robert said...

Abel,

I just mentioned how many aspects of the deal are no good, so I'm not ignoring numbers, but trying to make a case for the stadium while pointing out its cons as well.

It's not a simple fact of "let's throw money at a stadium" since it can't be used for other things. That's much too simplistic. The fact is, money that would be used for the stadium comes from tourist "bed" taxes, just like in other cities where these deals actually get done. Exactly how the taxpayer will get screwed by this, especially compared to how we've been screwed by mismanagement of copious school and transportation funds (which come DIRECTLY from average citizens), is beyond me.

If you're against the deal based on principle, that's fine. I understand and even respect that position. I think the post lays out how those on both sides are prone to miss the big picture here. That's all.

9:05 AM, March 10, 2009  

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