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Miami City Commission approves new Marlins ballpark

Next up for the Florida Marlins: a meeting of the Miami-Dade County Commission on Monday.The Miami City Commission voted today by a 3-2 margin to approve a proposed Florda Marlins ballpark, clearing the way for the Miami-Dade County Commission to debate the issue next Monday.

Michelle Spence-Jones, touted as the swing vote on the project, lived up to the billing. The previous consideration of the ballpark proposal died in a 2-2 deadline while she was away on maternity leave, and she returned to break the tie in the direction of the Marlins. Still, her vote was not considered to be automatic even after she won concessions for her district last week, and before the hearing started she was still being lobbied by ballpark proponents, opponents and the Marlins.

The proposal is basically the same one rejected by the city commission last month. The biggest difference is an agreement by the Marlins to share profits should the team be sold within the first five years of opening, a provision demanded by Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who voted against the measure anyway. It was a toothless concession from the Marlins, as team officials repeatedly stated they were not interested in selling the club anyway. Sarnoff didn’t get his way on his most important demand: that the Marlins share in naming-rights revenue.

While contentious, the city’s involvement is a relatively minor piece of the puzzle: besides financing a new parking ramp, the city’s exposure in the $636-million deal is capped at $13 million. Miami-Dade County will be spending almost two billion dollars on the project by the time debt service is brought into the equation, which will make Monday’s meeting so fascinating. Passage on the county level is by no means a sure deal, and we’re hearing the Marlins may need to make another big concession to win the support of two commissioners on the fence — and it may involve the aforementioned naming-rights revenues.

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