Marlins Ballpark: What are the Critics Saying Now?

Marlins get a new name Friday night, new home opens soon

There's no question the new Marlins ballpark will be a huge improvement over playing baseball in a cavernous football stadium.

"This is a spectacular venue that South Florida will be proud of, it will be a point of destination for folks from Florida, other parts of the country, and beyond, especially South America," said Sean Flynn, the Marlins' spokesman.

But it didn't just rise from the ground, the ballpark was fertilized by controversy. Almost from the day the Florida Marlins started playing at what is now Sunlife Stadium, a succession of team owners lobbied local governments in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties for a real baseball-only ballpark, often threatening to move the team out of South Florida if they didn't get their way.

Even when the team was winning two World Series titles, the home of the football Dolphins and Hurricanes never really felt like home for the baseball team. The Marlins often led the majors in lowest attendance and lowest payroll, and still managed to wrangle a deal for a publicly-financed ballpark in Miami, touting the benefits to the community.

"Right now there are over 800 local folks working right now in that building and we're having a jobs fair next week to fill a couple of thousand positions," Flynn said.

The Marlins and many of the ballpark boosters are also convinced the new stadium will spark a building boom of gentrification in Little Havana.

"I have my doubts in terms of that," said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, one of the stadium deal's loudest critics. He voted against the deal when he was a county commissioner.

"Well, I think the deal is really still rotten, that hasn't changed at all and the financing was even worse," Gimenez said today when reached at a Veteran's Day parade.

The Marlins ownership is paying 30 percent of the $515 million to build the ballpark. The public is paying $360 million, and the city of Miami donated the Orange Bowl site land and paid for the parking garages. At the time the deal was negotiated, the Marlins claimed poverty, but would never open their books to scrutiny. After the deal was made, the website revealed the team's finances showed they had made a $50 million profit in 2009. 

The city's mayor didn't like the deal then, and still doesn't like it today.

"But, we believe this could be an engine for Little Havana, hopefully with the city and county working together, we can bring development to the area, now we need the marlins to win," said Miami mayor Tomas Regalado.

The biggest immediate positive, said both mayors, was the team's name change. Beginning Friday night, the Florida Marlins will cease to exist. The Miami Marlins will take their place.

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