Redevelopment Agency Wont Help Fund Stadium County Official Says
Written by Dan Dolan on March 22, 2007
By Dan Dolan
The Overtown-Park West Community Redevelopment Agency won’t be used as a piggybank to help fund construction of a $490 million baseball stadium in downtown Miami, Assistant County Manager Ian Yorty said last week.
"Between the City of Miami and the county, we feel we have the capacity in tourist bed-tax dollars to fund the project," said Mr. Yorty, spearheading the county administration’s negotiations with the Marlins and Major League Baseball. "We feel we can achieve our goals without CRA funding."
That’s good news for officials and civic leaders who support plans to build the stadium on nine acres of government-owned land north of the county’s Stephen P. Clark Center on Northwest Third Street.
County commissioners and Miami city officials have threatened to torpedo the proposal if community redevelopment cash is needed to build the 37,000-seat retractable-roof stadium the Florida Marlins want. After Miami Mayor Manny Diaz proposed tapping CRA funds two months ago, outraged county and city officials revived the Orange Bowl as an alternative site.
Mr. Yorty said the spat over use of community redevelopment money is a tempest in a teapot. Even though Miami City Manager Pedro "Pete" Hernandez has publicly said that community redevelopment agencies would contribute $15 million to stadium financing, Mr. Yorty said using existing Overtown-Park West funds was never part of the plan.
"Under the existing life of the CRA, it will not generate significant dollars for any project," Mr. Yorty said. "In relation to the baseball stadium, it was never conceived that the CRA would provide any existing revenues for funding the project."
Mr. Yorty said that could change after 2016, when the agency is scheduled to be terminated. When the agency’s mandate expires, the county and the city could bring it back to life and expand its sphere, he said.
"Mr. Hernandez’ $15 million figure was a target developed during an exercise to determine what would be the economic impact if we extended the CRA’s life, expanded its boundaries and had the stadium as an anchor to accelerate other investment in the area," Mr. Yorty said. "There was never any intention to take away money from other projects, including the construction of affordable housing. With tourist-tax dollars, which can only be used for projects like a stadium, we feel we have identified an appropriate revenue and funding source."
Mr. Yorty said the county is negotiating key clauses of a stadium deal.
"We’re working on a guarantee that ties the team to the ballpark and ensures that they’ll play in Miami for at least the terms of the public debt on the stadium," Mr. Yorty said. "We’re also working out a cost-run provision that will minimize the county’s exposure to rising prices."
Under the current proposal, the county would own and finance a stadium, but the Marlins would build it. The team has indicated it would absorb any costs above the current $490 million price tag, which includes interest on construction loans. Mr. Yorty said the county wants an ironclad guarantee that it would not be stuck with the tab.
Three bills that would give the Marlins a $60 million sales-tax rebate over 30 years are progressing through the Legislature. Local officials say a tax break is key to stadium construction.