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Front Page » Top Stories » Arena Sale Awaiting Redirection Of Tax Revenues

Arena Sale Awaiting Redirection Of Tax Revenues

Written by on October 21, 2004

By Yeleny Suarez
The closing of the Miami Arena sale is on hold until the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County and the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority redirect tax money being used to finance the venue.

Once the arena is in private hands, a portion of Miami-Dade County Convention Development Tax funds are to be targeted toward building a stadium for the Florida Marlins baseball team.

"Once the arena is in private ownership, the tax funds will serve as money for the renovation of the Orange Bowl and allow the city to issue bonds that will be a small portion the $360 million baseball-stadium development," assistant city attorney Olga Ramirez-Seijas said.

The proposed stadium site is next to the Orange Bowl.

City officials said the delay will not cause problems in finalizing the arena sale.

"We are well within our extension period," said Ms. Ramirez-Seijas. "If we couldn’t satisfy conditions by Sept. 21, the contract gave us a 60-day extension."

The Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority board has not met since Aug. 13, two days after Glenn Straub, owner of Palm Beach Golf and Country Club, won the rights in an auction to buy Miami Arena for $28.01 million, according to Miami City Commissioner Tomas Regalado.

Mr. Straub also hopes to buy Melreese Golf Club, next to Miami International Airport, 1802 NW 37th Ave.

City officials said they will accept requests for proposals in December from bidders for the golf club.

The developer hired for the 130-acre site will be required to build a hotel and golf course. Additional construction may include retail, educational, restaurant, parking, convention or cultural projects.

The sports authority approved $2.4 million to enhance Melreese at its August meeting. Mr. Regalado said the authority will be involved in Melreese but not in a baseball stadium.

"MSEA is involved to the extent of the money freed following the arena sale that will benefit the Marlins’ stadium," Mr. Regalado said.

A decision to omit the sports authority from oversight of a stadium comes after a June 2003 study that said the group should manage more or all of Miami’s event sites.

The study, by Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant, recommended consolidation of several city facilities such as Coconut Grove Exhibition Center and Gusman Center under the sports authority.

The study showed that doing so would increase performance and save money by eliminating redundant management and staff, centralizing promotion and increasing access to funds. It also considered the sports authority’s role in a baseball stadium in the city.

"It was a great study, but nothing was done with it," said Miami City Manager Joe Arriola.

Mr. Regalado said last week that he wants to see the sports authority involved with Mr. Straub and helping to bring activities to Miami Arena.

The sports authority hopes to keep its offices at Miami Arena once Mr. Straub takes over the venue. "I plan to propose MSEA rents space from Straub and keep their same office at the next meeting. It’s a good deal. They can help each other," Mr. Regalado said.

Despite resigning a year ago in a letter to Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, James Jenkins, executive director of the sports authority, remains in charge of the group formed to facilitate and promote sports, conventions, exhibitions, entertainment, tourism and related activities.

Earlier this month, Mr. Jenkins said he is working on a month-to-month basis and has no plans to leave.

"We have many things to discuss such as grants, budgets and the future of the warehouse and parking lot, whether it is going to be sold or not," he said.

The group’s most recent scheduled meeting, Oct. 12, was canceled because of the absence of some board members.