Miami-Dade won't seek financing for $515 million ballpark until spring, two years before Marlins' lease with Dolphin Stadium expires
By Risa Polansky and Yudislaidy Fernandez
It will be about Major League Baseball's opening day before Miami-Dade County begins to seek financing for a $515 million Marlins ballpark.
The plan is to go to the bond market in March or April, County Manager George Burgess said — only two years before the stadium is due to open in April 2011, when the Marlins' lease at Dolphin Stadium expires.
He declined to address how that deadline may be affected, saying that's "a question more fairly asked of the team."
Marlins spokesman P.J. Loyello said "We're still too early in the process to come up with a definitive timeline."
In announcing stadium plans last December, local officials said they expected to break ground by the end of 2008.
Miami-Dade's financing timetable is "absolutely not" a matter of waiting for market disarray to settle, Mr. Burgess said.
In continuing to plan for the stadium, it will simply take until spring to get to the financing stage, he said.
Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro told The Wall Street Journal differently last week. His quote: "We have to wait until the market stabilizes."
He did not respond to interview requests.
But Mr. Burgess maintained today's shaky market has nothing to do with the county's plan to not step up to the financing plate for nearly half a year.
"Right now you have an issue of liquidity and you have an issue of money in the market. We're not going to the market now," he said. "We have every confidence that the market is going to be stabilized" by the time the county is ready to seek financing next year.
Before then, commissioners must approve five stadium agreements. They OK'd a preliminary pact with the team and the City of Miami in February that required that subsequent contracts be set by July.
But auto dealer Norman Braman sent the process into extra innings, suing the governments and the team over the deal.
Though stadium plans survived the suit, the trial ate up months, Mr. Burgess said, predicting commissioners should see construction, management, non-relocation, assurance and parking agreements in November or December.
In summer, he'd hoped for a September vote.
But deadlines are less important than negotiating a solid deal for the public, he said.
"The deadline here is to make sure you have an agreement you're comfortable with. Getting those documents prepared correctly is what drives the deadline."
No major issues hold the documents back from commissioners, he said. It's ironing out details of multiple lengthy agreements that's taking time.
"I don't think it right for me to suggest that there are examples of major issues that we can't agree on because that's not the case," Mr. Burgess said. "We're really just working on language and the final details of the agreement."
Miami City Manager Pete Hernandez cited the lawsuit and the complexity of the necessary documents as delay factors. But he also mentioned financial market turmoil.
"We've been delayed by litigation. Now we are being impacted by the market," he said, noting that city commissioners also must approve a major use special permit for the stadium.
He said the permit, final agreements and adequate financing must be in place before a shovel can hit the ground.