Proposal for ballpark west of Biscayne gathers momentum
By Paola Iuspa
With three city commissioners publicly opposing a baseball stadium in Bicentennial Park, a proposal that places the site west of a re-routed Biscayne Boulevard could be picking up support while city officials study two other scenarios.
With Miami commissioners Johnny Winton, Wifredo Gort and Joe Sanchez focusing on redesigning the waterfront park and some of them favoring a stadium west of the boulevard, the Florida Marlins could end up playing baseball across the boulevard from Bicentennial.
The park was the site John Henry, the team's owner, had sought to build a $385 million, 40,000-seat stadium.
At a Tuesday meeting of the Community Improvement Authority, a state-created group entrusted with coming up with stadium funding and recommending a site, the authority's site committee spent most of their time reviewing a proposal that calls for realigning Biscayne Boulevard into the park to the east, closer to the water. In that scenario, the stadium would go between the boulevard and Northeast Second Avenue.
Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas had commissioned Maurice Ferre, a former mayor of the city, to head a group to come up with this plan, Mr. Ferre said.
David Ginsberg, Marlins vice chairman, who had said two weeks ago at a similar meeting that rerouting the boulevard and moving the utility lines beneath it would be too costly and time consuming, said Tuesday the team would be willing to reconsider it.
"We are working with the city and waiting for the city's consultant recommendations on this site," he said.
After Mr. Ferre said rerouting the boulevard would not violate a federal law that prohibits building a federal highway in a public park, he told authority members that Florida Department of Transportation officials seemed optimistic about the realignment. He said he was awaiting information on cost and how long it would take to also move underground utility lines.
He said he would have a report by March 8 from the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is also studying the project after Miami Commissioner Arthur Teele asked it to last week.
"The main issue here is the relocation of the utilities," Mr. Ferre said.
Raul Masvidal, who Mr. Penelas entrusted to lead negotiations and who helped design a financial plan proposed in a letter of intent signed by Mr. Penelas and Mr. Henry, said it was possible the Marlins would settle for a site other than Bicentennial as long as it is downtown.
"Mr. Henry and the team may be able to survive until 2005," Mr. Masvidal said. "But later than that, I don't think so. Mr. Henry will lose close to $200 million by 2004."
If building a stadium other than in the waterfront park demands added funds, it is possible Mr. Penelas will commission him to seek sources not yet explored, Mr. Masvidal said.
"If keeping the Marlins here means paying 10% more for the construction of the stadium, I think we will find the money," he said. "Penelas' goal is to keep the Marlins in Miami."
Mr. Masvidal said a planned performing arts center more than doubled its original price yet sources to fund the $275 million project were identified.
Miami City Manager Carlos Gimenez told the authority the city had also identified two new sites for the stadium and consultants hired by the city had included them in a report to go before the city commission March 15.
The commission is to decide on a site for the stadium to give to the county after listening to the consultants' report.
One of the new proposed sites is a block west of Biscayne Boulevard, Mr. Gimenez said. The ballpark would sit between Northeast Second and Miami avenues, Ninth Street and Interstate 395, he said.
A second newly proposed site is east of the Orange Bowl Stadium at 1501 NW Third Ave. In that scenario, the ballpark would be adjacent to the Orange Bowl, extended eastward to 12th Avenue, he said.
Mr. Gimenez said both sites are privately owned and consultants will identify in their report revenue sources to pay for the land.
He said the city will not study using the Orange Bowl or the Miami Arena as sites for the stadium.
That means consultants will focus on six other sites, including two proposals placing the stadium in Bicentennial Park, two west of Biscayne Boulevard, one on the Miami River and one across the street from the Miami Arena.