Ballpark Digest

Friday, Apr 25th

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Always read the fine print, as Marlins fans are discovering

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The devil is in the details -- and as the public pores over the many details in the proposed construction agreements for a new Florida Marlins ballpark, the details are devilish indeed.
If the devil is indeed the details, then the devil casts an awfully long shadow in the construction agreement between Miami-Dade County and the Florida Marlins for a new ballpark. Sprung both on the Miami City Commission and Miami-Dade County the night before votes on final approval, it's pretty clear County Manager George Burgess was eager to see the agreement pass before anyone realized what the Marlins were receiving.

In the end, quite a lot. And in the end, if City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff did nothing other than delay the deal so the entire agreement could be examined, he'll probably go down as a hero.

We're not going to detail every piece of the agreement -- Miami Today, which has held a grudge toward the Marlins for years, does an admirable job of laying out the objectionable clauses -- but we will point out some of the more egregious ones.

We've already covered the fact the total cost of this project will be a lot closer to $2 billion than the $606 million figure tossed about by the Marlins. Also noteworthy: the fact that there's no analysis of the bonds needed to fund construction. Are they even sellable in today's economy? And if so, what interest rate is taxpayer looking at? Saying hotel taxes will pay for the bonds is one thing; not saying how much the bonds will cost (not even an educated guess) is another.

And if the hotel-tax revenue comes up short, who will pay off the bonds? Not the Marlins. Rather, Miami-Dade taxpayers will.

And what if the construction costs exceed the budget? Technically, the Marlins are on the hook. But there's no mechanism in place to actually collect the money. A construction lien on the team expires when construction starts. After construction starts, the Marlins are in the clear -- and we know all know cost overruns are addressed at the end of construction.

Now, some of this language, especially regarding construction liens, may be normal. But for taxpayers already nervous about budget shortfalls and cost overruns, the contract is a whole series of red flags that should be causing more scrutiny of the deal.

Besides -- no matter what Marlins President David Samson says -- there's really no place else for the Marlins to go. He can certainluy bluff a move, but let's face it, San Antonio and Portland sure are not working at all to land the team. Both Texas and Oregon are facing huge deficits, and there is not a MLB-ready facility in either municipality -- nor are there plans for one. Charlotte? Dream on. New Jersey? Ain't gonna happen.

RELATED STORIES: Marlins ballpark vote delayed until March 12; Total borrowing cost of new Marlins ballpark: $1.9 billion