After last Marlins stadium bond OK, Miami-Dade mayor going to bat with Major League Baseball to beg relief
By Ashley Hopkins
Just as the Miami-Dade County Commission was forced to honor a $35 million contractual agreement to help fund the Marlins Stadium, Mayor Carlos Gimenez pledged to reach out to the team to try to recoup funds — a move the commission pushed unsuccessful last November.
When Miami-Dade OK'd a three-way contract with the City of Miami and the Florida Marlins, it was with the belief that the team was cash-strapped and struggling to stay afloat. A 2003 pro-forma attributed to team ownership estimated the Marlins to be $141 million in debt, with equity declining.
Copies of Marlins financials that emerged online, however, showed that in 2008 and 2009 the team had a net income of roughly $33.3 million.
According to officials with the county attorney's office, in order to amend agreements all three parties would have to agree to discuss contract terms. While the commission asked then-mayor Carlos Alvarez to reach out to the city and the team, negotiations never took place.
As the stadium contract states that the county would have to cover any cost overruns associated with governmental delay, at a July 7 commission meeting Mr. Gimenez urged the commission to authorize a $42 million bond issuance to ward off potential penalties.
"There's probably nothing on this agenda that gags me more than this item," he said, "but we can't put ourselves in a libelous position where it's actually going to cost us more money for this project."
While the county had to OK bonding to fulfill contractual obligations, Mr. Gimenez said he plans to meet with Major League Baseball officials to see if the team would provide additional support to the county.
According to construction agreements, Miami-Dade is set to contribute $347.5 million to the $515 million project, while the city is to provide $13.5 million and fund parking construction.
The Marlins are to put $154 million into the deal, $35 million of which will be financed through the county's $42 million issuance and repaid over time. The team is expected to contribute $2.3 million each year in stadium rent rising at 2% annually, which is included in the $154 million, as are the team's design costs for the stadium.
The $42 million is to finance $35 million in construction fees and $2 million in soft costs related to issuance of the bonds and creation of a reserve fund. Commissioner Sally Heyman asked that the commission reduce the amount of the bonds to meet the $35 million contractual obligations.
"I feel that reducing the amount of this portion from the county would be a financial benefit," she said, "because I have yet to see the Marlins refund any money."
Hearing Ms. Heyman's concerns, Mr. Gimenez assured the commission that the county would only issue only enough bonds to provide the required funds.
"It is certainly our intent," he said, "to issue the least amount that we have to in order to fulfill our obligation."
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