This past Tuesday, Luis Montealegre poured a café cubano, paid a delivery guy for croquetas, and peered east a few blocks from his cafeteria at NW 12th Avenue and Fourth Street. There was only blue sky where a $634 million Marlins baseball stadium will soon rise. "This is the poorest part of the city, the one that needs the most help," the handsome 44-year-old Montealegre said in Spanish with a Nicaraguan lilt. "I love baseball, but this stadium won't help anybody here. It'll do nothing for the middle class."
After 15 years of blather, Miami and Miami-Dade commissioners this week ponied up their cash for the new stadium on the old Orange Bowl site. Calling it "our own stimulus package," they mentioned the possibility of spending even more. Eloquent protests from opponents such as Miami-Dade's Carlos Gimenez and Katy Sorenson, as well as Miami's Marc Sarnoff, were mowed down like summer grass.
The morning after the vote, though, the heavily Hispanic neighborhood around the site was underwhelmed. Riptide questioned about two dozen shop owners and others. Almost none spoke English fluently. Some came from baseball-loving countries such as the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Others were born in Honduras, Colombia, and Argentina, where Abner Doubleday's invention is no big deal.
All but one or two folks predicted el estimulo won't stimulate anything.
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"They'll sell things in the stadium, not outside."
"This area will never change. The stadium is window-dressing."
"It's politics. It's mierda."
Four Honduran construction workers who live opposite the site criticized the stadium in machine-gun fashion. All are fathers, and all would like to see basketball courts, parks, playgrounds, and baseball diamonds for their kids. None expects to get a job helping to build the stadium even though 50 percent of the work is guaranteed to locals. Why? Well, two said they don't have work permits. The others have lived here long enough to understand the way this city works. "It's too much money," said Luis Alberto Padilla, a 32-year-old who's been in the States for 14 years. "We, the people who pay for this, will never get back what we invested."