Six lies about the Marlins stadium

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Solares believes a public negotiation wouldn't have left voters holding a turkey that will eventually cost $2.4 billion including financing and other costs. "You can't have a major, publicly financed deal like this done behind lock and key with no citizen input," Solares says.

What's more, the pair argues, commissioners broke Miami's charter by crafting a "convoluted Rube Goldberg-style legal transaction solely for the purpose of sparing the [Marlins] from the payment of... taxes" on 17 acres used for parking garages.

Finally, the county had no right to use its credit to guarantee the bonds paying for the stadium project, they say.

They're all sound arguments, Carroll says, and they haven't yet been hashed out in court.

"Braman's suit was about whether there should have been a public vote," she says. "We disagreed with the result, but he didn't argue any of these problems with the deal."

The Marlins, though, say Solares lacks standing to challenge the deal. In January, they filed a motion to dismiss the case. Judge Lawrence A. Schwartz hasn't yet set a date to consider both sides' arguments.

Solares says voters shouldn't let the team off the hook just because the politicians behind the deal have been fired.

"There's no reason to stop fighting," she says. "My granddaughter will be paying for this until she's middle-aged, and the team is making an incredible profit. How can we just ignore that?"

The Absolute Worst

Ask an economist whether the Marlins stadium deal is the worst in baseball history for taxpayers, and he or she will pussyfoot around and then tell you it's hard to say. Comparing complex stadium deals is like trying to stack Mark McGwire's juiced home run stats against the skills of the Babe.

Baloney. We'll go right ahead. It's the worst flipping deal ever.

First off, most cities have extracted far more funds from their teams to build a new park than Miami, where owner Jeffrey Loria will front just short of 30 percent of the $515 million cost. Take baseball-mad St. Louis, where the Cardinals and private investors eventually covered 88 percent of financing for the new Busch Stadium. Or San Diego (43 percent privately financed). Or Detroit (37 percent private).

Yes, there are ballparks that have cost their teams less. Just last year, Washington, D.C., footed the entire bill for the $611 million Nationals Park. But in return, the district gets millions in rent from the team and will share revenue generated by the stadium. In its first year, that added up to almost $17 million for D.C.

That's where Miami loses. The city and county will get almost none of the revenue from the new ballpark. Even worse, Loria and his cronies will keep virtually all the cash from the naming rights. If the deal is similar to those closed recently for the New Jersey Devils and the New York Mets, Loria will cover his entire share of the stadium with that single deal.

Then there's this: Miami-Dade County leaders were so incompetent in negotiating the project that they stuck taxpayers with interest rates that would have made a mid-housing-bubble speculator gasp. By the time the bonds are paid off in 40 years, we will have sunk $2.4 billion into the boondoggle. And did we mention the team pays no taxes on the land?

Worst. Deal. Ever.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink

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