The Marlins are hoping Friday the 13th turns out to be their lucky day. Miami-Dade County Commissioners and Miami City Commissioners are to vote Feb. 13 on the five agreements that spell out the financing, construction and other details to make their ballpark at the site of the former Orange Bowl a reality.
The five agreements – Construction Administration; Operating; Non-Relocation; Assurance; and City Parking – were released Tuesday. If you want some light reading, take a look at the documents here on the county’s website.
Acknowledging that I haven’t read every page YET, the agreements overall appear to extract more from the team, thereby offering more protections for the public. The budget for the ballpark is to remain the same, the documents show, ($347 million from the county; $155 million from the team; and $13 million from the city), but the team is responsible for any cost overruns incurred on the ballpark AND the public infrastructure. That means if there are overruns on the estimated $21 million in drainage, sewer and road work the city and county will split, the team will be responsible for those.
The team’s rent payment of $2.3 million a year will rise 2 percent a year – meaning more money for the county to cover its debt. The team will provide 81,000 tickets – or 1,000 a game at an “affordable price” starting at $15 in the ballpark’s inaugural year. Another 10,000 – double the original 5,000 – a season will be provided free for youth groups and community organizations.
If the team is sold within seven years, the team would have to pay a higher percentage than initially planned, to the county as a profit share. Under last year’s agreement, the team would pay 10 percent if the team was sold in year one; under the new agreement, that’s shot up to 18 percent. The percentage falls each year, but is significantly more onerous than in the earlier agreement – arguably creating something of a disincentive to sell.
Neither County Manager George Burgess nor Marlins President David Samson would say the changes were made to appease the concerns of county commissioners who have threatened to vote against the ballpark agreements.
“We wanted to get something stronger,” Burgess said.
“You do what you think is right to achieve a goal you have. Our goal from the beginning was to partner with the city and county … through the course of negotiations there were certain provisions that changed,” Samson said. “Our focus has been to get this deal done.”
Even if the commissions sign off on the agreements, there’s still an option for any of the parties to terminate them by June 30. Burgess and Samson said they don’t expect that to happen. They expect construction to begin this summer with the ballpark opening in 2012.
The city commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Feb. 13, followed by a 1 p.m. meeting of the county commission. The county commission must approve the agreements by a two-thirds vote -- or 9 -- of the 13 county commissioners. Expect it to be another long day.