New site, new Legislature give stadium hopes new life
By Dan Dolan
Hopes for a $420 million stadium for the Florida Marlins in downtown Miami moved closer to reality this week after Miami-Dade County officials unveiled a new site proposal and renewed plans to prod the Legislature into giving the Major League Baseball franchise a massive tax break.
Miami-Dade commissioners said the Marlins' chances of winning a $60 million state tax subsidy key to the construction of a stadium were greatly improved by this month's elections.
With a new governor taking office in January and Rep. Marco Rubio of Coral Gables installed as Speaker of the House, commissioners say the mood in Tallahassee likely has changed for the better.
"Now that the legislative leadership is from Miami, I think we'll get a fresh perspective on the stadium project," Commissioner Carlos Gimenez said. "This really helps. It gives us a very good chance."
Commissioners Rebeca Sosa and Bruno Barreiro agree. Ms. Sosa said, "The public has spoken loud and clear that they want a new stadium." She said she expects the House of Representatives to listen now that Mr. Rubio is running the show.
Mr. Barreiro, a former state legislator, said Mr. Rubio's new job will give the county a bit more political muscle.
A formal request for the Legislature to approve the Marlins' tax break will be considered by the commission Tuesday. Two years ago, the House gave the baseball team what it wanted only to have the proposal stall in the Senate. Last year, the Senate passed a Marlins tax-relief bill at the 11th hour only to have the legislative session expire before the House and the governor could act.
"With that history, we have a very good chance of getting the proposal through the Legislature during the next session," Mr. Barreiro said. "It's good for the county. And I think the newly proposed site for the stadium is a good thing, too."
In a memo issued days ago, County Manager George Burgess recommended a site just north of the county administrative building on Northwest Third Street.
Mr. Burgess' proposal calls for the stadium to be built on about 9 acres of city- and county-owned land currently earmarked as the site of a new $110 million juvenile-justice center. But the land, now being used for parking, would be perfect for a stadium because it is next to the main transit station for buses, MetroRail and Metromover, Mr. Burgess said. He said the site provides easy access to Interstate 95.
"Locating the ballpark next to mass-transit access would provide a positive site characteristic that has not been present at most of the sites we have previously studied," Mr. Burgess said in his memo to Mayor Carlos Alvarez and the county commission.
The county has looked at several other locations for the stadium, including Hialeah and the Orange Bowl.
Major League Baseball executives have considered a site by Miami Arena. But Mr. Burgess said the county was never actively involved in that plan.
Major League Baseball and the Marlins have been approached with Mr. Burgess' new proposal, according to county officials. But the plan to build the juvenile-justice center could scuttle the stadium project, officials say.
"My main concern is the children's court," Commissioner Natacha Seijas said. "Hopefully, that's not an issue."
Mr. Burgess said he believes he has found a solution to the problem. He said the court building could be relocated to the east side of the county administration building — on privately owned land that's currently used for parking. He released no further details.
Pending more information, commissioners Sosa, Gimenez and Barreiro were generally positive about Mr. Burgess' plan.
"It sounds really good," Mr. Barreiro said. "If we can work things out with the children's court, this could be a perfect location. It has the Metrorail, parking and easy access. I really think it's ideal."