Comment of the Day

I’ve slagged on the Marlins’ stadium across a dozen posts by now, so it’s probably time I grant some equal time. Here’s a comment on my post about this from Wednesday, from the guy who probably knows more about this deal than the dudes who are going to vote on it later today, Jorge Costales:

I suspect that this will not change minds, but the type of public funds to be used for the stadium are tourist-based taxes and are specifically designated for entertainment related purposes. So the stadium is competing with arts and convention centers, not the type of infrastructure improvements you note or the police services noted in the comments. In fact, today’s Miami Herald editorial endorsed the stadium deal.

Further, I won’t bore you here [I intend to bore you with other points], but in my blog I point out how favorably the stadium deal looks in comparison to other smaller market team stadium deals. Really, what’s the point of allowing figures related to NY stadiums being used to analyze our situation?

I am for the stadium being built, but am no fan of how Marlins management have publicly portrayed their finances. I concede and believe that the economic arguments typically made for retaining sports teams in a city are exaggerated. Although, I do think that the value of having major league teams in a city with a tourist-based economy is too easily dismissed.

I am practically a lifelong Miamian and grew up in the [called Little Havana] neighborhood where the stadium is to be built–the former [and beloved] Orange Bowl location. But my support is not purely sentimental, although it is that too. It’s not a main argument, but this stadium will revive a neighborhood which could have been expected to decline otherwise–score one for the have-nots.

I believe a case can be made that this stadium deal is one where the local governments are doing the right thing out of necessity, not conviction. While the location is a compromise, I think it will work out beautifully due to the issue of traffic, which I assure you is a close 2nd to rainouts for us Marlin fans. Dolphins stadium [and its 3 exits] has long been a nightmare to get out of when the crowd is above even 20,000—fortunately that has been rare recently.

While some can legitimately wonder if it’s the right location, the recently passed federal stimulus bill unquestionably makes it the right time. Soon state governments will be awash in Federal dollars in search of legitimate public works projects. Many non-legitimate projects will no doubt be funded. The stadium is part of an overall plan designed to improve the type of infrastructure concerns raised in your post. As a result of the stadium process being dragged out for years and unforeseen economic circumstances, this stadium deal now represents a perfectly timed opportunity for Miami to improve in ways which would have been unimaginable even 2 years ago.

Any resentment I may harbor against the type of MLB owners who profit from these type of circumstances, pales in comparison with the good which I believe may come to my city from all these bizarre circumstances coming together.

I will now put away my violin/bongos.

Jorge, by the way, maintains an excellent blog on the subject, so if this stuff interests you, by all means check it out.

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  1. Pete Toms said...

    I have a lot of respect for Jorge’s blog (I only scan read the non baseball content but I think he’s pretty sharp on the political stuff also), his series examining Marlins’ finances was very thorough and informative.

    I do question if a new ballpark (evidently now in limbo) will “revive” his neighborhood though.  My reading on this subject over the years indicates that there is little to no economic development that comes from the construction of a new ballpark.  They operate only 80 or so days a year (depends on how many non baseball events are hosted) and fans don’t tend to stick around afterward.  In fact, the new ballparks come with good concessions, restaurants and shopping that work against the surrounding shops.  So, surface parking lots and souvenir shops are of limited value.  There has been a trend of “mixed use” developments surrounding these ballparks, but they haven’t sprung up organically after the opening of the stadium, they are part of the larger development scheme (I’ll save the TIFs discussion)  I also question Jorge’s assertion that the new ballpark will boost tourism, again I don’t think that has been the experience elsewhere.

    If there is an argument in favor of publicly funding baseball stadiums it is not the proposed economic benefits or urban renewal.  It is simply having a better ballpark in the community.  If public dollars hadn’t contributed to building hundreds of new ballparks for professional baseball, would they have been built at all?  Or would fewer, less fan friendly ballparks have been built?  Or would the franchise owners have built them anyway?

  2. Jorge Costales said...

    First, thanks to Craig Calcaterra for the generous space and comments related to an opposing view.  I have exchanged views with Pete Toms on various occasions as well, and respect his point of view. To me these type of exchanges are one of the best parts of the blogging experience. To know that otherwise disinterested and informed people come to different conclusions about an area of mutual interest. It forces one to rethink and hone arguments.

    That having been said, let me do my best imitation of Dan Ackroyd’s SNL ‘Jane you ignorant [PC banned]’ tirade for the sake of blog-appeal wink

    Re: ‘Reviving’ the Little Havana neighborhood:
    – Usually, I know someone’s arguments are on shaky ground if they resort to semantics. So I now resort to semantics with a degree of trepidation. Revive in my context, refers to the neighborhood—which housed Miami’s most historic building since 1937—having a big hole and replacing that hole with a new stadium. I believe the stadium agreement allows for 16 non-Marlins events there, which would bring significant traffic into the area for 97 [has a nice ring to it doesn’t it Indians fans?] dates a year. Those 97 events, year after year, are the best guarantee a neighborhood of that nature [lower-middle class at best] has from being ignored in terms of crime and public services. That is what I meant by revive.

    - I agree with Pete that the economic literature indicates that expectations of significant economic improvements to areas surrounding new stadiums simply has not materialized. It is unfortunate, but a counter-intuitive economic fact of life.

    Re: New stadium ‘boosting tourism’
    – Here I plead innocence. what I wrote is that ‘the value of having major league teams in a city with a tourist-based economy is too easily dismissed. Unfortunately, I don’t have the tools or imagination to know how to produce quantitative evidence to that effect. But that either the images or allusion to beautiful beaches and South Beach add to the desire to visit South Florida is, like my hatred of the DH, an unshakable item of faith. In terms of exposure, I believe we benefit immensely from being a ‘big-league’ city. In the case of an area with a tourist-based economy, that has an economic impact, not just an easily dismissed goodwill/pride factor for a city, but that too.

    Re: What would happen if owners could not get, even partially funded, stadiums built for them?
    – Great question. A classic case of the benefits [saved monies otherwise spent on facilities] being too disbursed to offset one community’s incentives [snagging a franchise].

    As a political conservative, this issue pits ideals vs practical realities. I believe conservatism is the politics of reality. If I oppose this stadium on principle, the reality is that I won’t stop public dollars from being spent on non-essential items. It will just ensure that public dollars will spent on items that I do not frequent as much as I would a MLB team. So I support this stadium.

  3. Pete Toms said...

    @ Jorge;  I was in favor of public dollars being spent on our ballpark here (Ottawa).  Not a matter of principle, entirely selfish, I knew I would benefit from it.  (and I have, it’s one of my favorite places here)

    “Public Dollars, Private Stadiums” discusses how touting the “economic benefits” of building a new stadium is a tactic that is used less and less frequently by stadium proponents.  Folks have cottoned on.  In its place, more frequently stadium proponents argue the intangible benefits of “community self esteem” associated with having a first rate faciltiy in the community. 

    Rightly or wrongly we have reached the tipping point in this debate.  Camden Yards opened in 92 and subsequently govts at all levels, both liberal and conservative, and across the breadth of the US have subsidized billions of dollars of stadium construction for the benefit of private interests (and fans).  The pols don’t want to be associated with this any longer though, the perception of subsidizing millionaire athletes is out of step with their constituents.  As recently as 06 there was little political, popular, blogger or media backlash against the NYC govt selling tax exempt bonds to finance stadium construction.  The recently completed second – and smaller – round of financing turned into a media and political circus….the Citi Field naming rights backlash ( and wait for Yankee Stadium / BofA )….and now Miami politicians concerned about voter reaction to public contributions towards a new Marlins ballpark… 

    I’ve never been to Miami and can’t comment on life in Little Havana.  I have read multiple times that Camden Yards has done nothing to improve conditions in Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods which are nearby (if my Baltimore geography is correct).  Jacobs Field is the most oft cited example of a new stadium spurring urban renewal but many claim that it was a coincidence, that the economy turned around at the same time the stadium opened.

    When do Selig and DuPuy send the “relocation” balloon up?

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