Build It And They Won’t Come

by SDM

The Miami New Times laid bare the lies told by the Miami Marlins when they beseeched, cajoled and extorted a new stadium from weak county and Miami politicians. See Six lies about the Marlins stadium. What caught SDM’s eye was this quote from Marlins President David Samson:

“When you can promise fans a retractable-roof facility with air conditioning and games starting on time and ending on time, we firmly believe our attendance will grow.”

- MLB.com, March 31, 2009

Well, guess what? Samson was wrong. According to the Miami Herald, attendance is back at its Joe Robbie Stadium levels:

What has moving to Miami brought the Marlins? About 100 extra fans per game.

That’s the current gap between this year’s attendance and the average gate count for the Marlins’ last season at Sun Life Stadium, the football field that owner Jeffrey Loria blamed for the team’s long-standing attendance and revenue woes.

So, after $2.4 – 3 billion American dollars (that’s what taxpayers will have shelled out for Miami-Dade’s newest white elephant after interest costs are included), the Marlins are still drawing less than all other MLB franchises and are headed towards notching the highest attendance drop-off in the league. But don’t worry, David Samson feels real bad about it:

I obviously still feel tremendously sorry about what happened last year…[t]he goal we have with our fans every day is to get them to the point when they say, “I remember when — I remember when I was so unhappy with the team. But now, it’s a love affair.’”

Love affair? More like a financial hurricane for county taxpayers. In January, Forbes said that the Miami Marlins Have Become Baseball’s Most Expensive Stadium Disaster:

“…the stadium’s financing scheme means there will be some $3 billion in interest expenses on the construction loans that will be paid by city and county taxpayers. Worse for taxpayers there is no incentive for [Marlins owner Jeffrey] Loria to put a good team on the field because the city and county must pay the bondholders regardless of how the team performs. Moreover, a small but quirky part of the  bond financing has turned a $91 million loan into a $1.2 billion liability for taxpayers. And to add insult to injury the Marlins are nickel-and-diming taxpayers over capital repair costs.” Emphasis added by SDM.

You read that part above right. The Marlins transaction specifically disconnects the rent payment from the bond payment. We – county suckers….er…taxpayers – are on the hook for any and all bond payments not covered by the rent. (You can thank former Mayor Carlos Alvarez and his incompetent lackey George Burgess for this pathetic and dangerous deal.) In the meantime, we have tied up half-a-dozen taxes we charge to tourists, and which could have been allocated toward a myriad of other uses even without legislative changes, until 2048!

SDM Says: There is a silver lining here, however. The Marlins deal is a perfect example of why public money should not be shoveled into the maws of insatiable sports franchise owners. Especially here in Miami-Dade, we do not have public officials with either the business experience or financial background to negotiate a balanced deal with these sophisticated owners. In the end, taxpayers always lose while politically connected cronies get rich. Basta ya!

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