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POLITICS

Subsidized Marlins Park sitting empty

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

A Florida fan phoned Marlins Park this morning to ask what time tonight’s game is. The stadium official responded, “well, what time can you show up?”

That’s an old baseball joke, but that sort of deference would be fitting down in Miami, considering that the taxpayers are the ones who paid for this ballpark that is now sitting empty.

I came across these stories of Florida’s awful attendance outlook for the season through The Slurve, a new, concise, and excellent email morning newsletter on baseball by political-writer-turned-baseball writer Michael Brendan Dougherty.

It piqued my interest not only because the Marlins are in my division (I’m a Mets’ fan), but because I know that the Marlins’ owner squeezed $600 million in taxpayer money out of government at various levels.

The sports-subsidy book-blog Field of Schemes broke it down at the time:

  • The county will now put in a whopping $359 million for stadium construction and roads and utilities, mostly from tourist taxes. While the Marlins argued that tourist-tax money legally can’t be used for anything other than tourism projects, the way the county got these funds for the stadium in the first place was by funneling off new tax money to pay for what the tourist taxes had been previously pledged to — meaning the cost will ultimately come out of the county’s general fund.
  • The city puts up $119 million, mostly to build parking garages for the team.
  • The Marlins kick in $155 in private funds, a good chunk of which will likely come from the sale of naming rights, assuming there are still any corporations left to buy naming rights in the future.
  • The team pays cost overruns on the stadium itself, taxpayers cover overruns on everything else, including the garages.
  • The team gets all revenues from the stadium itself, paying only $35 million in rent (part of its $155 million contribution). The city will receive revenue from parking at the new garages, and the Marlins have agreed to purchase some of the spots up-front for resale.

So the public puts up almost exactly three-quarters of the cost, and the team gets virtually all of the revenues.

And once more, if you’re a baseball fan, consider subscribing to The Slurve.

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