A considerable amount of concern from pro-Marlins ballpark ranks has arisen over a story in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal that looked at how sports franchises are faring in this tumultuous economy. It's a wide-ranging story explaining how sports are not immune from the economic downturn: stadiums await naming rights deals, teams worry about selling tickets and are taking steps to offer discounts or payment plans.
The story even quotes New Jersey Nets CEO Brett Yormark (twin brother of Panthers President Michael Yormark), saying sports are no longer competing just against other entertainment options: "We're going up against milk and orange juice," Yormark told the paper.
But the section that has some concerned about the prospects for a new Marlins ballpark at the site of the former Orange Bowl quoted veteran stadium opponent Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorensen saying support for the project is likely to wane:
"Everybody is a little skittish right now," added Ms. Sorensen, who has always opposed the project. "It's going to be a tough sell to the public to approve something like this."Sure the economic crisis will affect the price of the proposed $515 million stadium, but it wasn't unexpected the cost would go up, given the ongoing delays. (Some have always believed the price was much higher anyway).
The Marlins declined to comment. Bruno Barreiro, the county commission's chairman and a supporter of the project, said he hopes to submit a final deal for a vote in coming months, but he acknowledged that securing financing for the project might take a while.
"We have to wait until the market stabilizes," he said.
Sorenson expressed concern about there being enough hotel bed taxes to cover the construction debt, but county officials have repeatedly said those dollars have already been identified and accounted for. And in fact, history shows governments sometimes like to embark on large public projects in difficult economic times because they stimulate the economy and create jobs. (Think the New Deal).
I'm told county, city of Miami and Marlins officials continue to negotiate definitive documents spelling out the details of construction management, non-relocation and other agreements. It's always been known receiving the nine county commission votes needed for each of those agreements will be an uphill battle, regardless of the economy.
Additionally, it's possible the Marlins are waiting until after Miami Circuit Court Judge Jeri Beth Cohen rules on the final count in auto dealer Norman Braman's case before unveiling renderings of the ballpark. But it's also possible the renderings just aren't ready yet.
As always, stay tuned...