No surprise here, but the Marlins are finally publicly acknowledging that a new ballpark won’t be ready in time for the 2011 season. Marlins President David Samson insisted on Tuesday that a 2012 opening is a certainty.
“It’s disappointing,” Samson said of the delay, which he blamed on auto dealer Norman Braman’s unsuccessful lawsuit targeting the ballpark financing. “The important thing is it’s going to open and it’s going to be a stadium that will last forever and help define Miami.”
Last forever? Define Miami? Perhaps Samson can be forgiven since he thinks he is finally seeing the light at the end of that long stadium financing/construction tunnel.
Samson said it became clear in talks with the team’s construction manager, Hunt/Moss, that a 2011 opening was too optimistic for construction and to keep the venue’s cost at $515 million. Samson said the cost to build a 37,000-seat, retractable roof ballpark at the site of the former Orange Bowl is expected to remain $515 million, despite the delay.
He said construction will need to begin by May to ensure a 2012 opening.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, including completing definitive agreements spelling out the stadium’s construction and financing details and then presenting them to Miami-Dade County and Miami city commissioners, expected next month, and putting them to a vote of commissioners, expected in January.
Even with approval, the team will still need to secure financing. Samson is optimistic that can happen even with Braman expected to appeal and tight credit markets in a difficult economy.
“We’re confident the markets will improve and the liquidity will return to the marketplace,” Samson said.
He and other stadium advocates believe now is precisely the time for governments to support large public works projects to create jobs and stimulate the economy. We’ll see about political support in the coming weeks.
And then there’s the thorny question of where the Marlins will play in 2011. The team’s lease expires after the 2010 baseball season, but Samson is hopeful the team will be allowed to play at Dolphin Stadium another season.
He said preliminary discussions with Dolphins and stadium co-owner Stephen Ross have occurred and Ross confirmed that he has spoken with Samson. Samson said that he’s also contacted University of Miami President Donna Shalala since the Hurricanes also share Dolphin Stadium.
Under the agreement to move from the Orange Bowl to Dolphin Stadium, UM’s needs are considered third behind the Dolphins and Marlins until after the 2010 baseball season when UM moves to second place. The baseball diamond was also supposed to be removed after 2010.
“I would hope that an agreement can be ironed out, it would be difficult to believe we would not be able to extend the lease by one year. It will not be an infinite extension,” Samson said. “Anybody can get along for a year.”