Miami Marlins Keep Lying About Stadium


By Tim Elfrink Thursday, Oct 4 2012
originally posted on

It’s the bottom of the ninth, and as usual the Marlins are about to lose. Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel zips a fastball past a befuddled Miami hitter, notching another strike on the way to a 3-0 Braves shutout.

Just outside the center-field bathrooms, Steve Corbin clutches a Jose Reyes bobblehead to his chest, squints at the field, and shakes his head in disgust. The bald fan in a Marlins T-shirt has rooted for the Fish since the team opened up shop in Miami Gardens in 1993. This year, he’s had time to see a dozen games at the team’s gleaming new Little Havana stadium.

“The ballpark is great,” Corbin says. Then he sighs heavily. “I just wish they hadn’t completely screwed over taxpayers to build this thing.”

Before the park opened, Miami New Timescounted down the six biggest lies the team’s owners told to sell what we predicted would be the “worst deal for taxpayers of any stadium in America.” Those falsehoods included absurd promises that the stadium would revitalize Little Havana, bogus pledges that fans would flock to games, and laughable claims that the Marlins would go bankrupt without the deal.

Now, as the team’s first season on NW Sixth Street draws to a close this week, it’s time to look back and confidently declare: This stadium has been a fiasco for the ages.

From dismal attendance to terrible baseball to none of the promised business impact on its struggling neighborhood, Marlins Park has tanked worse than chubby closer Heath Bell huffing and puffing through another blown save.

“The stadium has done nothing for the City of Miami,” Little Havana activist Yvonne Bayona says. “Their promises were lies. This deal wasn’t to benefit us; it was to benefit the team’s owners.”

Let’s walk through the numbers that prove Marlins Park is South Florida’s scam of the century:

Zero: Stadium revenue the Miami Marlins shared with Dade taxpayers — you know, the chumps who chipped in more than 70 percent of the $515 million cost to build the damn thing. Instead of revenue sharing, Miami-Dade County has gotten a measly $2.3 million in rent, plus $40,000 toward building some new youth fields. The city — which floated $100 million in bonds — gets a whopping $10 per parking space at the team’s garages plus $25,000 toward new parks.

One: Sellouts the team managed all year in its palacio de béisbol. The lone full house came opening night with the reigning World Series champs, the St. Louis Cardinals, in town. Jets boomed overhead and former boxer Muhammad Ali shakily threw out the first pitch.

12: Of 16 National League teams, that’s where the Marlins ranked in attendance. Team owner Jeffrey Loria promised that a retractable roof, air conditioning, and a home-run sculpture fit for a Timothy Leary class at Harvard would lure spectators in droves, yet the Fish are outdrawing only perennial dogs Pittsburgh, Arizona, and San Diego and the 100-plus-loss, historically bad Houston Astros.

One: New businesses that activists say have opened around the park. Politicos, such as then-Miami Commissioner Joe Sanchez, promised time and again the stadium would bring “economic vitality” to a desolate edge of Little Havana that was left to rot after the Orange Bowl’s demolition. Instead, the neighborhood has been treated to a single sports bar on the corner of NW 17th Avenue and Seventh Street, the Batting Cage, says Bayona. “It’s still a ghost town when there’s no game.”

500,000: That’s how many fewer fans flooded Little Havana to watch Loria’s team this year than the Marlins owner had projected to deliver in the stadium’s inaugural season. “Essentially, they spent $500 million and only lured a few hundred thousand extra fans,” says Neil deMause, author of Field of Schemes, a book about modern stadium deals. “They could have just stood outside and handed out five-dollar bills to get people in the gates and accomplished about the same thing for a hell of a lot less cash.”

Zero: Businesses that set up shop in the retail spaces inside Marlins Park’s garages during the season. One selling point to the city in exchange for $100 million was that an “entertainment district” would pop up in the garages. So far, the city has zilch to show for that promise. Commissioner Frank Carollo claims the city is close to signing a lease with the Tilted Kilt, a sports bar staffed by scantily clad women. Art Noriega, chief executive officer of the Miami Parking Authority, tells New Times that a cigar company has signed a contract to open by next season. But Horacio Stuart Aguirre, chairman of the Miami River Commission, thinks other types of tenants — urgent care clinics and immigration attorneys — are more likely to lease at this point. “The whole thing was done badly,” he told the Miami Herald last month.

2.2 million: Fans who passed through the turnstiles this year, the lowest season total for a team opening a brand-new park since the 1982 Minnesota Twins, according to Forbes. Yeah, it’s a nice boost from the bottom-of-the-barrel 1.5 million the team drew in its final year at Sun Life Stadium. But bragging about beating that total would be like taking pride in posting a better batting average than John Buck….

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