Letters to the Editor

From the issue of January 25, 2001

We don't have vast high-rises with no place to go, and where we do have high-rises -- Brickell, Key Biscayne, Miami Beach -- those high-rises are have access to the water and beaches. A city like New York needs Central Park because the residents can't sun themselves or exercise in their own back yards. Additionally, and just as important, Miami is primarily an automobile-oriented city. To get to Central Park one needs only to walk a few blocks or take a short subway ride. To get to Bicentennial Park, one needs to get in his car to drive, and if I'm in my car driving to a park, I can drive to one of countless beaches in the area, or to the Everglades, or to Fairchild Tropical Garden, or to Key Biscayne, or Coconut Grove.

Thus, faced with the options available, the sunshine daydream of families spending the day by the bay would be supplanted by the gritty reality of a park overrun by crack addicts and bums (sorry: the homeless), a possible chance to revitalize an urban area lost.

There are other complaints leveled against the baseball stadium as well. First, a stadium would create jobs, and not just during the short-term rush of construction. Once open a stadium requires personnel to run its operations and vending. Granted selling beer and hot dogs isn't the greatest job in the world, compared to, say, being a rock star, but it is a job, and it is a job within easy reach of workers from Overtown and Liberty City and Little Havana.

Second, traffic is often cited as a problem. My response: Look at a schedule, stupid. The Marlins in 2000 had 55 home games during the week (obviously weekend games are a moot point on traffic issues), and of those only five were day games (at 4:00 p.m.), one of which was July 4. Thus even with the current schedule there would only be four days with trouble, and I doubt anyone with the Marlins would have any objection to night games on those days if it meant having a new stadium in which to play. The night games start at 7:00 p.m., so the rush-hour traffic would be inbound and not interfere with people going home from work, and the outbound traffic would not start until 10:00 p.m.

Third, critics often grouse that this public money should be used in other ways to benefit the poor. As I understand the deal, this is money that wouldn't go to the poor in any case. An added benefit, though, would be the creation of secondary businesses that would generate jobs and direct taxes that could help the poor.

It's this last area that's often misunderstood. People point to the Miami Arena and say it didn't create a revitalization, so why would a stadium? The best example would be to look to Baltimore, which did have a renaissance in a blighted area following the building of a baseball park. Why? Because a baseball stadium is a much different creature than an arena. There are about 80 home games over the course of six months every year, as opposed to far fewer games for basketball or hockey over a shorter time period. With that many games there are more opportunities for surrounding business owners to make money, and thus a greater incentive to open a business, and even more so when taking into consideration the American Airlines Arena and performing arts center nearby. It's not difficult to envision a rich urban center flowing from Miami's three adjoining showpieces.

Finally it's important to remember that a far larger portion of the community would benefit from a baseball stadium than from the arts center or arena. Currently ticket prices for baseball range from just a few dollars to $20 for excellent seats. Basketball or arts events simply cannot be seen by the poor, whereas a baseball game in an accessible stadium is a feasible proposition for just about anyone. Just picture it: It's 6:00 p.m. in downtown Miami a few years from now. Young professionals are ordering drinks from local bars as they gather after work and before the game. Families are finishing meals from restaurants they can afford to go to, as they spent less than $40 for four seats. Rather than clearing out at 5:00 p.m. downtown is bustling with energy and excitement as fans get ready to see their Marlins and enjoy a night out in our great city with the money left in their pocket after seeing the game.

Or we can picture an empty downtown, a ghost town, as workers flee for the night. Which Miami would you rather see? While parks are wonderful, please do not make the mistake of misunderstanding our city and its environs. When was the last time you drove downtown to take a walk in Bayside Park?

Errol Portman
Coral Gables

Don't Miss This Investment Opportunity!
Limited stadium bond offering -- place your order now: Regarding plans for a new baseball stadium, if building a sports arena made good business sense, wouldn't companies be flocking to issue their own bonds, build it themselves, and keep all the profits? Of course they would. Hey, even I would.

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