Baseball consultant: City needs private help to build stadium
By Tom Harlan
A consultant for Major League Baseball has offered Miami officials what he calls a proven recipe for success in building a new stadium.
Mark Rosentraub, dean of Cleveland State University's college of urban affairs and author of the book "Major League Losers: The Real Costs of Sports and Who's Paying for Them," said the city should gather public support and private equity before agreeing to a stadium deal with the Florida Marlins.
An agreement should fill the Marlins' need for a centralized location and the city's need to revive its downtown, he said last week in a forum for business leaders at the Miami City Club sponsored by Florida International University's Metropolitan Center.
Owners of the Marlins should focus on attracting retailers and restaurants to the area to help lure fans to their 81 regular-season games each year, he said.
"Over the last 20 years, all successful baseball locations have been in concentrated downtown areas," Mr. Rosentraub said. "Where the team plays does matter."
Miami City Commissioner Johnny Winton, who attended the forum, said Mr. Rosentraub made good suggestions for economic development that should be taken into consideration. But Mr. Winton said it is up to the Marlins, not the city, to attract private equity.
Mr. Rosentraub said the city should do the deal if the Marlins aren't interested in building a stadium to improve a depopulated area - such as the area near the Orange Bowl, where they want to build.
The Orange Bowl site is a good idea, he said, because it is in a deteriorating area. Revitalizing the area with the help of private equity would give residents a reason to go downtown, he said.
Mr. Rosentraub said downtown Indianapolis had been abandoned before the city developed a development plan in 1974 that focused on placing all sports in the area.
A new shopping area was built next to the fronts of abandoned, obsolete buildings, revitalizing downtown while retaining the area's historical look. The move added 2,098 hospitality jobs and increased the downtown population 35%, he said.
Mr. Rosentraub said Miami should set goals - such as determining whether a stadium deal would bring prestige to the area. Once goals are understood and a plan is created to achieve them, the city should explore giving incentives for the private sector to invest in new retail and commercial space around the stadium, he said.
"I'll be the last to tell you not to invest in sports, but I'll be the first to tell you not to do sports at any cost or without a plan," Mr. Rosentraub said. "Plans, measurable results and private investments are the signs of good deals."
Private investors should look into building housing and businesses to create a community in the area, he said. No economist has found a link between a sports team and regional economic development, but a venue does change the economy in the immediate area, he said.
In addition, Mr. Rosentraub said the Marlins would not be successful in downtown Miami without the support of the public, who ultimately determine a team's success. To receive interest from the public, the Marlins' stadium should include features such as air conditioning that would attract more fans to the stadium.
"At the end off the day, you have to sell this as a community development program and economic development program," he said.
Dario Moreno, director of the FIU center, agreed.
"In the final analysis, this project isn't about sports," Mr. Moreno said, "but local economic development."
In a deal already in place for a $325 million retractable-roof stadium, the city plans to contribute $28 million from a tourist tax. Miami-Dade County has pledged $38 million from its Professional Sports Franchise Facilities Tax and $35 million to $82 million from its Convention Development Tax if the city can sell Miami Arena.
The Marlins have promised $127 million in rent payments, $20 million in equity and $10 million from a ticket surcharge. The team also hopes to get a $30 million sales-tax rebate when the Legislature resumes next spring.