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Votes on Marlins ballpark moved up

Final votes on the five agreements to make a new Florida Marlins ballpark a reality are now scheduled for March 4 and 5.
Final votes on the five agreements to make a new Florida Marlins ballpark a reality are now scheduled for March 4 and 5.

When the ballpark deal collapsed last Friday, the decision was made to put it off until March 12. However, the county and the city decided to move things up after seeing the schedules would work out.

The March 4-5 dates are not set in stone, we’ve been told. One big issue is whether the Marlins, Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and MLB officials can come to consensus on the agreements by then; some folks close to the talks tell us the discussions are amicable, but there’s beginning to be some frustration expressed by government officials about baseball’s lack of concern over how the public must need to be sold on the agreement through some concessions by the Marlins. Now, some of the concessions can be purely symbolic — like promising more to the county if the Marlins are sold, a provision the Marlins and MLB are willing to consider — but other revisions are being fought by the Marlins, including a proposal to share naming-rights revenues should they reach a certain level.

Plus, there’s no assurance any deal will pass once it’s finalized by the four players. The City Commission rejected the initial agreements on a 2-2 tie, and supporters assume the support of Michelle Spence-Jones, who missed the votes because she was on maternity leave. In the past Spence-Jones supported the ballpark proposal, but so far she’s been quiet about whether she supports the proposal as presented.

And then there’s the whole issue of the Miami-Dade commissioners supporting the ballpark proposal — and that’s not a done deal. The current schedule calls for the city to debate the measure March 4 and the county March 5. Coming into negotiations the assumption was that the county would be the harder sell because it has the actual liability for most of the ballpark’s cost; the city’s contribution is tapped at $13 million. The revelation that it will cost the county $1.8 billion or more to finance the $606-million ballpark was damaging, to say the least, and many commissioners are now under serious political pressure to pull the plug on the deal. Politically, it’s really up to the Marlins and MLB to give some of these swing votes some shelter — but we’re not sure the personalities of those involved in the negotiations could let that happen, and baseball runs the risk of overplaying a very weak hand.

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