This Stadium Goes in This Park or Else!

Preparing the land for a stadium in Park West, Teele believes, will cost close to $120 million. "This means it's a much more difficult fit than I initially thought," he concedes. "It's very difficult to support a position of insisting that [the stadium] be in Park West." And so he is no longer insisting, much to the chagrin of the Urban Environment League and a host of other groups and individuals who had counted on his continued assistance in protecting Bicentennial Park.

In fact Teele is now willing to withdraw his opposition to a stadium in the park if John Henry meets specific criteria: that the stadium occupy no more than half the acreage while the rest remains parkland; that parking garages on the site provide no more than 2000 spaces; that Henry does not support Mayor Joe Carollo's idea to fill in and develop the moorage between the park and the American Airlines Arena; and that Henry mitigate the loss of parkland by building a park elsewhere in Miami. "Most important," Teele elaborates, "is minimizing the footprint [of the stadium] and mitigation that would be acceptable to the environmental community."

As the most visible member of that community, at least in terms of preserving Bicentennial Park, Greg Bush would be among those responding to such a compromise. "I respect what Commissioner Teele has attempted to do in general, but I oppose that," he says. "We need to take a much broader view of redeveloping our city. We need to think about the long term. Giving away our prime waterfront land is a dramatic mistake and simply wrong."

The proposed Park West stadium site looks good on paper, but the costs are prohibitive

See the full-size version of this map
The proposed Park West stadium site looks good on paper, but the costs are prohibitive

See the full-size version of this map

Holding the line against a stadium in Bicentennial makes perfect sense for Bush and his allies, who are passionate about the issue. (They also happen to be right, in my opinion.) To win this political battle, though, they're going to need to enlist many, many more people to their cause, for it appears the outcome will be determined not by a vote of the city commission but by a vote of the citizens of Miami.

A provision of the city charter known as the "Carollo amendment" (after its author, then-Commissioner Joe Carollo) requires a referendum whenever the city seeks to sell or lease public land and fewer than three bidders are competing for the project. Carollo promulgated the 1987 measure as a safeguard against sweetheart contracts and backroom deals. Legal experts say that even if the city were to "own" a $400 million baseball stadium in Bicentennial Park and simply hire the Marlins to manage it, the provision would still apply. (Miami City Attorney Alex Vilarello declined to offer an official opinion. Art Teele says he'd support a citywide vote on using Bicentennial Park even if the city charter didn't require it.)

Of course if John Henry's plan to tax cruise passengers bombs in Tallahassee, talk of a stadium in Bicentennial Park (or anywhere else for that matter) will be purely speculative. But should Henry's battalion of lobbyists succeed, Miami voters can expect to see two ballot measures this fall -- one seeking approval for a new cruise tax and another asking them to allow construction of a 280-foot-tall stadium spreading over sixteen acres or more of Bicentennial Park. In that event you can bet Henry won't hesitate to put a gun to the electorate's head and issue this threat: It's baseball in the park or no baseball at all.

Greg Bush winces at the prospect of such a bleak choice. "To me that's a narrow perspective," he says. "We need a lot more information and a public process. We haven't had it. And we certainly don't need to jump to the Marlins' schedule [of a new stadium by 2003]. We need creative ways to find other sites."

With Park West apparently out of contention owing to high costs, the only remaining downtown option would seem to be a privately owned parcel along the Miami River near I-95. Bush and others (myself included) believe that site should be examined more thoroughly. But in the meantime, he can't afford to have the spotlight drift from the imminent danger posed to Bicentennial Park.

With that in mind, the Urban Environment League this Saturday, March 25, is sponsoring an event billed as the "Walk of Renewal and Public Workshop." The affair begins at 11:00 a.m. at Bicentennial Park, with tours and a review of plans developed during the recent brainstorming session. Then the gathering will amble over to Miami-Dade Community College's nearby campus for more deliberation about how to breathe life back into one of Miami's most lovely and most neglected public assets. For more information call 305-579-9133.

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