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August 26, 2010

FL Marlins Conned Taxpayers Into Gifting Them a Stadium

Not an unfamiliar story in the "public works" setting. Florida politicians decided that the Marlins absolutely must have a new stadium or they'd leave the state. And since the Marlins couldn't pay for it...well, it's for the taxpayers' own good.

Wait, did I say the Marlins couldn't pay for it?

A look at the leak of the Marlins’ financial information to Deadspin confirmed the long-held belief that the team takes a healthy chunk of MLB-distributed money for profit. Owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson for years have contended the Marlins break even financially, the centerpiece fiscal argument that resulted in local governments gifting them a new stadium that will cost generations of taxpayers an estimated $2.4 billion. They said they had no money to do it alone and intimated they would have to move the team without public assistance.

In fact, documents show, the Marlins could have paid for a significant amount of the new stadium’s construction themselves and still turned an annual operating profit. Instead, they cried poor to con feckless politicians that sold out their constituents.

The ugliness of the Marlins’ ballpark situation is already apparent, and the building doesn’t open for another 18 months. Somehow a team that listed its operating income as a healthy $37.8 million in 2008 alone swung a deal in which it would pay only $155 million of the $634 million stadium complex. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County agreed – without the consent of taxpayers – to take $409 million in loans loaded with balloon payments and long grace periods. By 2049, when the debt is due, the county will have paid billions.

Read the whole thing.

Although, as I said, this is a familiar story. Politicians and other "public servants" aren't spending their own money when they make the deals for this kind of thing (or for light-rail or a new wireless infrastructure or for underwater bike trails or whatever). So they've got much less incentive to really bargain or to keep costs down.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 10:34 AM

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