It didn’t take long for Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez to respond to County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa’s request to see if the agreement to finance the Florida Marlins' new ballpark could be altered.
On Friday, Alvarez issued a carefully worded memo outlining the reasons why county administrators weren’t surprised by information revealed this week in leaked documents showing the Marlins were profitable the past two years. He reiterated what Marlins President David Samson and County Manager George Burgess have said this week about the importance of the team’s solvency as a partner in the ballpark deal.
Sosa sent him a memo on Wednesday asking if the team could be required to contribute more in light of the team's profitability.
“Even if we did see the need to reopen negotiations – which we do not – the Marlins are not willing to discuss reopening the contract,” Alvarez wrote in the memo sent to Sosa and distributed to county and city of Miami commissioners and staff members. “Nothing that we have learned has changed our reasoning in a way that would demand or justify new negotiations.”
In fact, Alvarez said he thinks the release of the information – the documents were obtained by Deadspin.com – and the subsequent reporting on it has “misled the public.”
The financial statements show the Marlins had a net operating income of nearly $50 million combined for the years 2008 and 2009. The documents show net operating income of $37.82 million in 2008 when the team’s on-field payroll was a league-low $24.8 million and $11.1 million in 2009 when the payroll was up to $35.1 million.
Alvarez chose to highlight the team’s net income -- which factors in interest, taxes, amortization and other expenses. Those figures show the team earned $29.4 million in 2008 and $3.9 million in 2009.
Alvarez said the figures should give commissioners comfort, not pause, that the team can cover its obligations to the $515 million ballpark. “That the team had a positive revenue stream should not have been a surprise to anyone. It was not a surprise to your negotiating team,” he wrote.
According to Alvarez's memo, the team’s contribution works out to $120 million up-front, $93 million in rent payments, $26 million for the capital reserve (maintenance) fund and any cost overruns on the ballpark.
He said county officials did not see “the team’s confidential financial information during negotiations,” but did do “a wide range of other research before we became confident that the deal was properly structured.” That included reviewing public documents, conversations with the team and potential lenders and financing experts.
He ended the memo with a forward-looking statement suggesting county commissioners may want to join him at the ballpark’s opening: “In April 2012, I expect we will all have reason to celebrate a model of sustainable public-private cooperation when the first pitch is thrown.”