Vote No, Miami-Dade

Stadium giveaways to billionaires are foolish even in the best of times, but they are even harder to take in the worst. Now comes an analysis from the Miami Herald showing that the Marlins deal — due for a vote on Friday — is even more generous than your typical ballpark boondoggle:

The Florida Marlins stadium deal coming up for final showdown votes Friday — where the public would foot 70 percent of the construction bill and share none of the revenue — would be among the more generous to a team owner this decade, a Miami Herald analysis found.

Fourteen Major League stadiums have been built, or begun, since 2000. The average public contribution for construction of those stadiums has been 44 percent, the newspaper found.

Under the proposed Miami deal, the Marlins would rank ninth of the 14 in the percentage of construction costs borne by the team, the newspaper found.

”It’s probably not the best deal that has ever been worked out between a community and a team,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez said after his State of the County speech on Tuesday.

But he insisted it’s better than most and comes at a time the region is thirsting for a public works jolt, adding: “At some point, negotiations have to stop.”

The public works argument is the only argument in the stadium’s favor, but I have to ask: what’s the state of Miami’s water lines? Its sewers? Its rail lines? Its roads? This ballpark is certainly not the best use of public funds in general, but even if you set aside the fact that it will primarily enrich Jeff Loria and serve a mostly well-off clientele, is this ballpark the best use of public works dollars?

By the way, there’s a great quote in this article as well. It comes from the Giants’ former owner Peter Magowan, a man I have often praised for building his team’s stadium with private dollars. What I often forget to mention is that he tried really hard to get the public to pay first. His thoughts on the matter today, even after he built a jewel of a park that has done very well for his team’s bottom line:

‘We really would have preferred if the public had taken the risk instead of us.”

That’s what it’s all about for these guys: putting the risk on others and keeping all of the benefits for themselves. We normally excoriate people who do this, but for some reason, baseball owners get a free pass from government officials, most of the media, and most of the public at large.

I simply don’t get it.

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  1. themarksmith said...

    Hatred for government >> Hatred for owner of favorite team.

    We like to hate on the government because, well, it’s the government and it isn’t perfect. We like the owner of our favorite team because, well, they’re the owner of our favorite team or part of our favorite sport. Government is associated with politics and people yelling and not getting anything done. Baseball is associated with fun and entertainment.

    I’m not saying this a logical way of looking at things, but people generally aren’t rational. When it comes to the showdown, baseball wins, even if it doesn’t make much sense.

  2. Pete Toms said...

    Will this be the first ballpark project to fail?  A lot has changed these past several months.  It ain’t ok anymore to be wealthy and lookin for public dough.  (An aside, A Rod picked the wrong time to be wealthy, priveleged and dishonest – the guy just never gets it right)

    Practically every owner in MLB has some HOK digs built with largely or entirely public dough.  The local politicians were cool with that (they spit up the money) and the local media were largely ok with it too.  But not anymore….folks are pissed and the pols and the press don’t want to be seen on the wrong side of this no more.

  3. Chris Simonds said...

    “putting the risk on others and keeping all of the benefits for themselves”

    it ain’t just ballpark owners. whaddya think investment banks have been doing the last 8 – 10 years? this is what Big Business has always wanted to do.

  4. Tony Antonielli said...

    I live in South Florida, and this kind of silliness makes my eyes cross at the best of times, nevermind that this particular indiscretion comes during the worst economic downturn in most memories.  I keep telling myself, “Hey, it’s Dade, and you live in Broward, relax!”, but, somehow, I just know this is gonna’ bite me in the ass almost as bad as if I lived in Miami…

  5. Pete Toms said...

    @ Tony.  As you know, inevitably these projects cost way more than initially projected.  (and I know, the Marlins have agreed to pay for overruns, but the devil is in the detail)  For starters, bet your *** that the financing is gonna cost WAY more than has been projected.

  6. Chris H. said...

    Rob jokes, but that really is the central issue.

    People forgive the team owners because, quite frankly, the teams have city names (mostly) as part of the team names.  Consequently, the local teams become part of the local identity, and thus local residents behave quite irrationally.

  7. APBA Guy said...

    It really is the same motivation for today’s politicians that drove the Roman emperors to spend money on Games. The people love their entertainment especially if the ticket price is low. Hide the entertainment cost in the form of taxes. Don’t explain that the new stadium will deprive the county of 100 additional police officers, etc, in perpetuity and you too can get re-elected.

  8. Jorge Costales said...

    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.

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