The Florida Marlins, already hinting that they might move to Las Vegas, say it will cost taxpayers another $60 million to keep the team in South Florida.
In a letter to state House Speaker Allan Bense, Marlins President David Samson said not only does the team need a new stadium with a retractable roof because of rain delays and fan “discomfort,” but the team’s landlord will not renew the team’s stadium lease, which expires in 2010.
Our landlord has informed us that it will not, under any circumstances, extend or renew the current lease; thereby, giving the Marlins no place to play in South Florida after that time,” Samson said in a Jan. 12 letter to Bense.
Bense said Wednesday that he has not studied the request, which comes a month after a much-publicized presentation by the team to Las Vegas regarding a possible move there. “I want to look at it,” Bense said.
The Marlins, though, may have a bigger hurdle on the other side of the Capitol, where Senate President Tom Lee appeared less receptive.
“I thought that we already appropriated money to help them move to Vegas,” he said. “I was very disappointed that they publicly announced the negotiations and discussions with Las Vegas, and I don’t negotiate with terrorists.”
Samson wants $2 million a year for 30 years. He said that money would allow the team to borrow $30 million today and “close the current funding gap” toward a $360 million stadium. The city of Miami, Miami-Dade County and the Marlins also are picking up part of the tab.
“This entire transaction, and in fact the future of baseball in South Florida, hinges on securing a sales tax rebate from the state,” Samson wrote.
Although Samson’s letter describes the money as a “rebate,” under the law, the money is actually a subsidy, not dependent on how much sales-tax revenue the new stadium generates.
In fact, Wayne Huizenga’s Dolphins Stadium will continue to receive the $2 million a year it has been getting for the Marlins since 1993 for another 18 years ” whether the Marlins move to downtown Miami, Las Vegas or even, as was rumored two years ago, are eliminated as a franchise.
Current law prohibits a team from getting more than one subsidy. The new language Samson wants gets around that by reassigning the existing subsidy to the football Dolphins and letting the Marlins get the new subsidy.