It’s been a busy week of technical, banking and court issues related to the Marlins ballpark plan, but as of this afternoon, the ballpark project appears to be back on track.
At least in the eyes of Miami-Dade County officials, who made progress on two fronts today:
County commissioners signed off on some technical changes to the ballpark plan, including delaying the termination date for the ballpark deal until July 15, instead of July 1, with the expectation the bond sale will close by July 17. (Miami City Commissioners took similar action Thursday). And Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lawrence Schwartz issued an opinion Friday afternoon, denying an injunction to prevent the sale of the bonds.
Miami activists Graciela Solares and Elvis Cruz filed the motion for the injunction against the county and city of Miami on Monday, to stop the planned sale of the bonds, which was scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday of this week. In February, Solares and Cruz filed suit aiming to halt the $515 million ballpark plan because they said it was negotiated behind closed doors in violation of the state’s public records laws.
As a result of Monday’s filing, Miami-Dade County officials chose to delay selling the bonds until June 29 and 30. The decision was made as a precaution, not because county officials believe the suit has merit. In fact, County Manager George Burgess called the suit “extremely frivolous” during a meeting of county commissioners Friday morning.
Solares and Cruz quickly filed notice they are appealing Schwartz’s decision.
But as of now, county officials intend to proceed with the bond sale and the Marlins are expecting work to begin at the former site of the Orange Bowl on July 1, with a ceremonial ground breaking for the 37,000-seat retractable roof ballpark scheduled on July 18.
Despite the roadblocks and technical changes, county officials say they are committed to the project.
“Our confidence in the project and its underlying funding plan has not changed,” Burgess wrote in a memo to commissioners in advance of Friday morning’s meeting.
The team, city and county set a termination date for the ballpark deal so that any side could pull out of the deal before bonds had been sold. County officials say they should know as of June 30 whether the bonds can be sold, with a closing expected by July 17.
“If we terminate, there will not be a ground breaking on the 18th," Burgess told commissioners Friday. “If we close between the 14th and 17th, then we have the ground breaking.”