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Man, I hate the Marlins

By: Nick Johns

Thanks Jeffrey Loria, your lies and deceit has killed sports and may even cost the city of Miami the Dolphins.

Thanks Jeffrey Loria, your lies and deceit has killed sports and may even cost the city of Miami the Dolphins.

Welcome back to Down Goes Frazier! My column is a little late this month because…well…I couldn’t think of a good historical topic that related to a recent headline. Instead of doing my normal thing this month, I’m going to switch it up a bit and talk about a semi-recent issue that made me angry.

The NFL recently announced the hosts for Super Bowl L and LI (that’s 50 and 51 for those of you who didn’t grow up in first century Rome). The nod went to San Francisco, which by the time Super Bowl L rolls around will actually be at their new stadium in Santa Clara, and Houston respectively. But the bigger story for me is of the city that lost their bid: Miami.

You see, the reason Miami didn’t get the Super Bowl is because Sun Life Stadium isn’t quite as cutting edge of a stadium as Levi’s Stadium (the official name for the 49ers’ new stadium) and Reliant Stadium. Granted, the Sun Life Stadium opened in 1985, but plenty of old stadiums get renovated. Look and Lambeau Field, that opened in 1957 and has been renovated several times to keep up with the times. Sun Life Stadium itself was due to get a makeover that would have made the Super Bowl pull a Lebron and go to South Beach, but the city decided not to provide any funding, killing the renovation plans. And it’s all the Marlins’ fault.

In 2008, the then Florida Marlins were in need of a new facility and were begging the city of Miami to buy them one. By beg, I mean they told the city that the Marlins organization couldn’t afford a new stadium and if the city didn’t give them one, they’d move to a city that would. In return for the stadium, the Marlins promised to put a great product on the field. The Marlins proceeded to anger everybody in their path while ramming their stadium initiative through. They held the city hostage to get the $2.4 billion needed for the project. The city asked to see the Marlins’ books to prove they couldn’t pay for the costs themselves, which they refused to provide. By the time they got what they wanted, Miami taxpayers were furious.

In 2009, Miami saw in a mayoral race between the pro-stadium candidate Joe Sanchez and anti-stadium candidate Tomás Regalado. Want to guess who the Marlins backed? The Marlins poured money into Sanchez’s campaign. They used so much money that should have been allocated to player development that the other Major League Baseball owners stepped in and told them forced them to stop. But the people of Miami were so against the new stadium that they elected Regalado with 72% of the vote. While the new mayor of Miami was opposed to the stadium efforts, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Alvarez, firmly backed the stadium efforts (Miami has a weird government, it’s all explained here). Despite the furious objections of the people of Miami, Marlins Park broke ground in July 2009.

In August 2010 Deadspin released information that indicated that the Marlins were indeed lying about their financial condition, and in fact made more than enough money to help pay for the stadium. The stadium commission was also spending money frivolously, including a $2.5 million sculpture (which is tacky as anything. You can see it here. In fact, you can see all of the unnecessary crap they put in this stadium here). By March of 2011 the people of Miami had had enough of their politicians and Miami-Dade County held a recall election, ejecting the pro-stadium Alvarez and electing Carlos A. Gimenez.

But the damage was done and the stadium opened in March of 2012. The Marlins seemed to be making good on their end of the bargain, rebranding to the Miami Marlins, signing top tier free agents Heath Bell (CP) and Jose Reyes (SS), and trading for Carlos Zambrano (SP) to complement their own superstar Hanley Ramirez (3B). This didn’t quite result in a winning formula, and by the midpoint of the season the Marlins had dumped $60 million worth of players, trading away Ramirez as well as several other high dollar players for young players with low salaries. Once the season was over, the Zambrano was let out of his contract, Bell and Reyes were traded and the Marlins had again stuck it to the people of Miami.

So today the Marlins have a low payroll, no fans, and are under investigation because of their false financial claims and their campaign contributions by the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission, not the Southeastern Conference. Nick Saban wouldn’t help; he has proved he doesn’t care about Miami). It couldn’t happen to a better organization. I personally hope they fold and Miami gets an expansion team with an owner who will actually attempt to win a championship make that huge tax burden slightly more worthwhile.

But back to the original point: Sun Life Stadium. The misdeeds of the Marlins has made the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County so skittish about publicly funding stadium improvements that the Dolphins are stuck in a crumbling stadium with a short term land lease. The Dolphins are at the point where they are considering moving the team, possibly to Los Angeles. I can’t say I blame either side. The Dolphins can’t play in a crumbling stadium and Florida has every right to refuse to fund stadium efforts after what the Marlins have done. My personal feeling is that the Dolphins should pay for it themselves, they own the stadium after all, but on a short term lease if the city were to say they won’t renew then what are the Dolphins going to do, move the stadium?

The plain and simple truth is that cities profit from sports teams and they get profits from stadiums, and they REALLY profit from championship games. Think of how much beer they sell at games. The city gets that alcohol tax. Think of how much team apparel is sold. The state gets the sales tax. Think of how many people go to the Super Bowl. Think of how much money they spend. Think of how much tax the state and local governments get in taxes. Since they profit from the team, they probably should kick in a little bit to fund it, but definitely not 80%.

The Marlins debacle has made cities afraid to invest in stadium projects, and teams aren’t willing to shoulder the entire cost of stadium projects when others stand to benefit from it as well. So now the Dolphins may play somewhere that is willing to build a stadium to bring the team in, and once the stadium needs renovation the city will say no and they’ll move to another city, and soon there won’t be such a thing as “home team.” Fans won’t have any reason to become invested in a team and the sport will dwindle to nothing… Okay, that’s the total doom and gloom scenario. The much more likely scenario is that teams will have to pay for their own stadiums and there will end up being a huge discrepancy between the teams. High earning teams *coughYankeescough* will be in state of the art facilities while other teams will be stuck in crumbling publicly funded stadiums that fans don’t want to go to. Would you want to go to a stadium that is falling apart? Those teams will just lose money and won’t be able to compete. Who wants to watch a sport where half the teams look like the Jacksonville Jaguars?

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