Ballpark supporters were all smiles after Miami-Dade County Commissioners voted 9-4 late last night to finance a $515 million ballpark and $94 million in parking lots at the former site of the Orange Bowl.
It wasn’t easy getting there – it took more than nine hours of debate among commissioners and testimony from nearly 80 members of the public. That on top of the numerous years, countless stadium plans and dozens of commission votes.
But the approval, which wasn’t assured even as recently as last week, was all but sewn up Monday, when County Commission Chairman Dennis made it clear he wouldn’t allow any alterations to the deal other than those deemed “friendly” by stadium supporter Commissioner Bruno Barreiro. Supporters clearly didn’t want any changes made that would sink the deal or require it go back for another vote to the Miami City Commission, which approved the plan in a 3-2 vote last week.
With Commissioner Javier Souto on the yes side of the ledger, supporters knew they had the deal approved. That didn’t stop opponents from proposing a number of amendments – many of which Barreiro didn’t even hesitate to reject – aimed at improving the deal for the public.
Moss had outlined the guidelines for the meeting, which also required everyone to ask questions and give answers through him, since he serves as commission chairman, leading to some giddy moments, when commissioners forgot or emphasized the words “through the chair…” before asking a question.
But even long-time stadium supporter Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz acknowledged the county didn’t get everything it needed or wanted in the deal.
“It is not a perfect deal,” Diaz said. “I see more positives than I see negatives with this deal. I will tell you straight out that it will create jobs.”
Commissioner Joe Martinez tried to put a stop to all the talk of the ballpark making Miami a “world class city.” He said it doesn’t make the city world class, it just gives residents more entertainment options.
Long-time stadium critic Katy Sorenson, who opposes public financing for a private enterprise, even offered a tongue in cheek “friendly amendment” suggesting the ballpark be named for Barreiro. Sorenson outlined a number of areas where she thought the public was being taken, including that it loses out on property tax dollars from the stadium land and with the Marlins receiving all the naming rights revenues in a new stadium, that means the team isn’t really contributing to cost of the stadium.
“Not withstanding that my great grandparents got engaged at a Cubs game in the late 1880s,” Sorenson said, “people know where I stand on this issue. I don’t think public money should be used for a private for-profit corporation.”
She added, “When you’re fundamentally opposed to something, it’s hard to propose amendments. It’s kind of like putting lipstick on … a fish.”