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The Marlins’ stadium saga just continues to get weirder and weirder. According to the Herald, it appears that despite the availability of $50 million that would’ve otherwise gone toward refurbishing the Orange Bowl, it is likely a large funding gap will remain for stadium construction.

Apparently, Marlin’s owner Jeffrey Loria still isn’t isn’t pleased with the Orange Bowl site, and is threatening to reduce his funding contribution for a stadium to be built on that site. From the Herald:

Hernandez said the club is looking to cut its contribution out of concern that building a new stadium on the site of the Orange Bowl — a plan that has gathered support recently among city and county leaders — would not be as profitable as the downtown site that the team prefers.

Some people (including myself) feel that Loria has been stingy with his proposed funding contributions, but in this case he’s right to be concerned about the shortcomings of the Orange Bowl site.

To further complicate matters, construction costs are steadily rising due to the increasingly small window available to finish construction for the new stadium by 2011, when the Marlins hope to be moved in. If all this isn’t enough, it is now being estimated that “road improvements” slated for the area surrounding the Orange Bowl could cost as much as $12 million.

As commissioners lose patience with the stadium deal, Vice Chairman Sanchez sponsored a resolution Thursday calling for an updated stadium plan by a December 13th deadline. He even wants the team to go public before then to announce their commitment to the Orange Bowl site. This ought to be very interesting (as if most political/capital decisions in Miami aren’t).

Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald

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It’s hard to believe that the Marlins’ stadium saga could get even more bizarre (well, maybe not that hard to believe). Now Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has come out opposing the Orange Bowl site, saying that a downtown site is the team’s sole focus and the only viable location for a new stadium in South Florida. From the Herald’s article on Saturday:
  • Loria: A downtown setting “would be much more beneficial to the franchise and fans…it’s very easy to get to…we must get it done”.
  • Team President David Sampson: “Our sole focus is completing a deal downtown.”
Wow. First of all, I’m a little curious as to why it took so long for Loria to come out publicly in support of the downtown site, especially given the adamant tone of his language. Secondly, if he felt this way all along, which is how it sounds, then this likely means the county commission has not only gone against good urban planning, history, and common sense in pushing for the Orange Bowl site, but they’ve also been pushing a site the team owner is not even interested in.

Predictably, the county commission reacted to Loria’s and Sampson’s statements with concern. Commission Chairman, Bruno Barreiro, stated “We’re just trying to get money from the state…we can’t get distracted by the site issue.” Oh, really? Well, if I had a vote on whether or not to allocate state funds to the construction of a new baseball stadium, I would certainly be more inclined to vote yea if I knew specifically where the building site was located, especially if it was in downtown Miami. But don’t take it from me. State Representative David Rivera, who ultimately controls the flow of legislation for House Speaker Marco Rubio, said “There might be a lack on consensus to build at the Orange Bowl.” Rivera then offered his support for a downtown stadium.

The really disconcerting piece form the article actually came from a commissioner who is now in support of the downtown site. “Commissioner Carlos Gimenez…was one of the strongest proponents of the Orange Bowl site (last month). Now, after studying transportation issues, he says it’s no longer his first option. ‘For me, I think baseball would work better in an urban, downtown site, he said’.” Holy cow! So apparently we have commissioners advocating for a Marlins’ stadium at the Orange Bowl without even studying the project’s transportation issues! That is just unacceptable. It’s pretty tough to debate the merits of a downtown Miami site versus an Orange Bowl site for a new stadium without studying, comprehending, or even considering transportation issues, for that matter. If the Herald piece is accurate, we have county commissioners making major decisions and guiding policy without even examining some of the most important, relevant details. At least he had it in him to change his mind. We’re still waiting for the rest of the commission to stop going against the grain (and logic, and history, and urban planning, and best practice, etc.).

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I broke a vow last night that I made to myself some months ago; I went to a Marlins Game and gave the slimy Jeffrey Loria a few of my hard earned dollars for a night’s worth of entertainment. I love baseball, don’t get me wrong. I hate Marlins’ ownership, past and present. I think they are all terrible businessmen, from the perspective of the customer that is. Loria’s recent dismantling and very empty threats take the cake, that’s why Friday night games like yesterdays can only attract 13,000 fans, many of them clad in Astro uniforms. I guess that San Antonio deal wasn’t really so sweet after all. I’m the first to hate to see the team in their present situation, but, I also hate to see a bunch of millionaires bitch and moan to get public financing for a new ballpark, especially one in suburbia which in the end will do nothing to attract more fans to the stadium. They have a fantastic young crop of prospects, including a former teammate of mine: Gabriel Hernandez who was traded from the Mets in exchange for Paul LoDuca. I hope for nothing but the best for the team, but, would like to see the owners actually do something that would be in the best interests of South Florida baseball fans…

It was nice to see Roger Clemens pitch and lose a game to the Marlins. I can’t speak favorably of the guy, though I respect his abundant accomplishments. Last night though, he was more of a firecracker than that “Rocket” they speak of. It was entertaining to watch the Astro fan in front of me walk out of the stadium like a coward in the eighth inning after spending the night making up various excuses about the fact that his team was facing a no-hitter going into the top of the sixth.

Oh, by the way, the new HD Screens Huizenga had installed for the upcoming superbowl are beautiful. Amazing quality and clarity…

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