I could feel that something odd was happening to my blog for the past few days. Sure enough, a review of my site stats confirmed it, readers! The two-day triple-digit deluge of visitors were sent over by a generous mention in a New Times article by Tim Elfrink about the Marlins new stadium. Elfrink has strong views on the stadium:
Like a festering, silver-plated pustule, a grotesquely huge can opener, or just an obscene ode to wasted cash, the new Florida Marlins stadium is rising above Miami’s skyline. Whether you’re driving down a tree-shaded block in Little Havana or cruising the Dolphin Expressway to South Beach, there it is: a $515 million money sucker that is probably the worst deal for taxpayers of any stadium in America.
Tom Wolfe would have been proud of that opening sentence! I don’t know Bauhaus from Our House, but the stadium looks beautiful to me. Since blog bytes are free, I also wanted to weigh in on other points made by Elfrink in the article.
I am in the odd position of favoring a stadium being built at [hotel bed] taxpayer expense, all the while calling out Jeffrey Loria and Marlins management for attempting to mislead those who believed them about how profitable the Marlins were. My bottom line factors were parochial [Little Havana is home, even when residing outside its boundaries] and philosophical. If the main source of revenue for the stadium deal were taxes which would go away if not for the stadium, I would be against the stadium. But since the taxes will be collected irrespective of the new stadium, then among the competing interests, I support the stadium.
Below are Elfrink’s six issues, or as he refers to them, “Big Fat Lies,” related to the new stadium deal with local governments. My comments are in bold.
1- Miami politicians were working for taxpayers.
While I don’t doubt the contributions reported by Elfrink, isn’t that just how government works? I view his point here as a good argument for restricting the role of government in general, but not something unique to the stadium deal.
2- The Marlins are a struggling team that can’t survive without a new park at taxpayer expense.
This was where my blog was mentioned. I have a couple of clarifications. Elfrink notes that the Marlins “made $300 million in revenue sharing.” More accurate to state that they ‘received‘ those monies. ‘Made’ implies profit. Similarly, Elfrink noted that the Marlins “banked at least $154 million in profit.” Again, a small but relevant clarification, would be to note that they earned $154 million since 2002 in ‘operating profits.’ Forbes reporting on this issue always focuses on operating vs net profits. Here is my blog post with the referenced amounts.
3- Stadium construction will bring good jobs to good local companies.
Elfrink points out issues with some of the firms involved in the construction. More interesting to me is that the stadium deal was structured so that the Marlins would be responsible for costs overruns. This gave the Marlins an incentive to hire competent firms to do the work. As far as I know, the construction appears on schedule and within the budget.
4- Fans will love the new stadium.
Elfrink is correct about new stadiums typically only proving a bump in attendance which then settles back down after a few years. But an argument can be made that the retractable roof in Miami will have a more significant effect than in other cities. Besides, the limited capacity means that regular fans won’t need to love it as much as corporate sponsors.
5- The stadium will rejuvenate Little Havana.
Depends on the meaning of the word rejuvenate. There can be no question that the neighborhood will be better off economically with the stadium than without. However, Elfrink is correct that the reality of the economic benefits touted to sell stadium deals never match the hype.
6- It’s too late to change the deal.
Don’t know. But I am curious how Bud Selig and Major League Baseball avoid blame for teams which negotiate in bad faith, partially on behalf of MLB. The next city which will be under the pressure of financing a stadium will be either Oakland or San Jose. Why can’t the MLB Finances blogosphere come up with guidelines for local government funding which would be reasonable in comparison with recent prior deals. It would represent a degree of leverage. Instead, in city after city, public officials with short term incentives, negotiate long-term financing deals. To the extent that teams & MLB can have those negotiations in a vacuum, that is always to their benefit.
I’d like to see the blogosphere do more here than call out ‘crooks and idiots’ from the sidelines. How about it Neil deMause? Mr deMause’s web site is the best source of information on these types of issues, please check out Field of Schemes.