More than 25 members of the public are signed up to speak at Miami City Hall in favor or against a new ballpark for the Marlins. The debate has become less about the use of public money for the $515 million venue and more about whether it will create the jobs, residents and business people say are desperately needed.
Several people in the construction industry have spoken in favor of the jobs the stadium will create. Others said those jobs are an illusion, won’t pay enough and the money should be spent on housing, education and other needs.
The tourist tax dollars designated for the project can only be spent on sports venues, convention centers and other projects to promote tourism.
A man from Hialeah said he had 5,000 signatures in favor of the stadium. A Miami activist called the deal “terrible” and implored the commission to put the 335-page stadium contracts before voters.
“Let the Marlins get a loan to buy the land at the old Miami Arena site, just like any private business should have to do,” Elvis Cruz said. “Let them build the stadium themselves and let Major League Baseball guarantee it.”
Before the public testimony, Major League Baseball President Bob DuPuy spoke of the significance of building a ballpark in Miami for generations of families to enjoy.
“No one remembers their first visit to a convention center,” DuPuy said, “but almost everyone remembers their first visit to a baseball game.”
Miami Mayor Manny Diaz called on commissioners to approve the ballpark deal for its much-needed jobs during a period of high unemployment, because it will revitalize a neighborhood in the city that sorely needs it and will help make Miami as a world class city.
“It’s very easy to say no. I believe this is not why we get elected,” Diaz said. “We get elected to act, to be decisive, to lead.”
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez told commissioners the issue is not new, and that it is time to make the decision. He worried the Marlins will leave “because after 10 years, we couldn’t come up with a contract.”
Alvarez said he hopes the team does “make a lot of money. If they make money, we’re successful in this community.”
Alvarez reminded commissioners, the county is fortunate to have professional football, basketball -- and baseball.
“They may never win a World Series again, but they’ve already won two,” Alvarez said.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria spoke briefly, telling commissioners he’s owned the team longest of its three owners, “because I have an unwavering commitment to see things well done, professionally done, it will continue in that same vein.”
But Loria added, “I do take exception to Mayor Alvarez’s comments we may never win another World Series.”