Sudden Wayne Change

Wayne Huizenga drives a hard bargain at Homestead racetrack -- he'll make millions while Dade taxpayers are taken for a ride

Through a combination of persuasion and legal sword-rattling, Muxo got Homestead $11 million in tourist bed-tax revenues for the motorsports complex in 1993 in a reprise of his baseball stadium performance. Sanchez, with lobbyist Book, talked the Florida legislature into amending a 1990 law that allows local governments to tax hotels and tourists for professional sports facilities. The amended law, including the new phrase "motorsport racing or testing facilities," provided the Homestead complex an additional $20 million from a revenue stream that had been used to build a tennis stadium on Key Biscayne.

When the costs of the racetrack construction project ballooned eighteen months later and the trio returned to Dade County to ask for yet another $20 million, county commissioners balked, then tried to extract some measure of control over Homestead's racetrack project. Relations between the county and the city soured, with each side accusing the other of legal extortion.

In the midst of this political stalemate, South Florida's best-known corporate citizen, H. Wayne Huizenga, offered to lend Homestead the additional $20 million in exchange for half-ownership in Miami Motorsports. The city accepted and Huizenga Holdings quickly became the new partner with Sanchez in the track's leasehold company, renamed Miami Motorsports Joint Venture.

By that time, Muxo had resigned his post as Homestead city manager and gone to work as a vice president of Huizenga Holdings at a reported doubling of his old $126,000 annual salary. In recognition of his good works in Homestead, the city council renamed a street Alex Muxo, Jr., Boulevard. The thoroughfare is on the east side of town, one of several leading to the 344-acre motorsports complex. Today the completed structure rises out of former tomato fields and includes two tracks -- a 2.2-mile road race circuit wrapped inside a 1.5-mile asphalt oval and ringed by skyboxes, grandstand seating, and a massive multistory control tower.

Muxo kept in touch with his old colleagues, and spent opening day at the track in a catered VIP suite with Sanchez, Book, Huizenga, and Homestead Mayor Tad DeMilly. Also present for the dedication, as they had been at the groundbreaking ceremony in August 1993: France and then-Dade County Commission chairman Teele.

Muxo returned to Homestead eight weeks ago, to a second-floor conference room at the Metro-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex. Beginning in the morning of February 12 and continuing through the afternoon, Muxo and Sanchez met one by one with six out of seven of Homestead's elected officials. Homestead City Manager John Asmar was also present at each meeting, along with City Attorney Mike Watkins and city financial adviser Richard Montalbano.

Vice Mayor Steve Bateman remembers his 1:30 p.m. meeting this way:
"The discussion started off with them saying things like, 'We've just about got this wrapped up.' I asked, 'What wrapped up? This isn't about changing the lease to let in a third party, is it? It's a total sellout.' They said, 'Well, actually, yes: Bill France wants to buy Miami Motorsports, and Huizenga doesn't want to be partners with Bill France.' Muxo said that if we didn't agree to the deal, we would never get the Winston Cup.

"I said, 'What kind of dollars are we talking about here? And what's the city's cut?' Muxo said, 'We're talking about $32 million, with $18 million going to Huizenga for money he spent on capital improvements.' At that point Dick Montalbano said, 'Excuse me, that's not correct. It's a $50 million deal -- $18 million for the capital improvements and the remaining $32 million split between Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Huizenga.'

"At that point Alex Muxo got a little hot. Montalbano said, 'Look, Alex, we need to disclose all the dollars.' Then Muxo said, 'It makes no difference what we're making. We're willing to give the city one million dollars.'

"That's when I got irate. People in Homestead have been told from day one by Miami Motorsports that we're partners, we're a family, et cetera. If they want out, why should the city get one million dollars instead of the eight million in taxpayer money we put into this thing from the general revenue fund? What about the $20 million in bank debt we floated to help pay for construction? If these guys were walking out breaking even, that would be one thing, but they're going to be walking away with a whole pile of money.

"I said 'Alex, look at the people who brought money to the table for this project: the county, the city, Huizenga, Ralph Sanchez -- he brought his vision.' Then Alex flew into a rage and said, 'The City of Homestead brought nothing to the table! Alex Muxo brought this money to the City of Homestead! That's how it got on the table!' He flipped out.

"At some point I asked to see the lease changes they were proposing. Muxo reached over and took the new lease out of his briefcase and threw it down in front of me. I started to turn the first page, and Mike Watkins snatched it away and said, 'Please don't read that because then it will become public knowledge.' He said I would have ample time to look at the changes. I said, 'How am I going to do that when I understand you want this to go to a vote on Monday night?'

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