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Marlins ballpark vote delayed until March 12

The Marlins make a small concession on one of the three changes suggested by Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, but the larger issue remains: $1.9 billion of debt service needed to build the ballpark.
The Miami City Commission adjourned today after not reaching a deal on a new Florida Marlins ballpark, with a vote rescheduled to March 12 — a time when an absent commission member should be back from maternity leave.

Despite ongoing negotiations between the city, Miami-Dade County, the Marlins ownership and MLB officials, the commission failed to approve a deal after Commissioner Marc Sarnoff demanded three changes to the deal: a cap on city spending for a new parking ramp, the transfer of naming-rights revenues from the Marlins to the county and city, and a share of the profits should the Marlins be sold.

After the meetings, Marlins President David Samson agreed to a cap on the parking-ramp construction costs, but rejected the other two. If the city really wanted those provisions, he said, he’d be happy to renegotiate the entire ballpark funding proposal.

This is where things get surreal. The Marlins are already the beneficiary of one of the most generous ballpark funding proposals in MLB in the last decade; only Milwaukee received a better deal. (The District of Columbia paid for all the costs of constructing Nationals Park, but is receiving more revenue from game operations.) It is hard to imagine the Marlins receiving a better deal than they have now.

And on that note the sides parted ways.

It’s not clear what will happen next, and there are issues relating to the ballpark debate that have little to do with the Marlins and everything to do with the political futures of Sarnoff and commission members Joe Sanchez and Tomas Regalado, who are both running for mayor of Miami.

Even if the proposal passes the Miami City Commission in March — and at this point it’s a big if — it’s not clear whether Miami-Dade Commissioners have the stomach to authorize $1.9 billion in debt service on $326 million in construction bonds. Ironically, city approval was seen as a sure deal because Miami’s exposure on the deal is limited; the city’s contribution to the ballpark is capped at $13 million. But concern that the total ballpark project would cost Miami-Dade County $1.9 billion is leading many to take a fresh look at the project.

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