Local baseball fans are all aghast at the Miami Marlins blatant act of self-annihilation, as the team traded away its best-paid players for some low-paid and rather dim prospects.
But really, folks, this particular lie, the one about how the team would be stocked ever-after with star players, has an esoteric, nearly quaint quality.
Sure the fans were promised a glorious array of pricey players now that the Marlins had been provided that splendid new stadium in Little Havana. But South Florida baseball fans, a rather lackluster population (no other new Major League Baseball stadium has attracted so few spectators in its inaugural year), werent required to put up the half-billion dollars for a gleaming new sports palace.
That obligation was foisted on the taxpayers in Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami, no matter that most of them dont give a whit about baseball. And, if they had had the opportunity afforded to citizens in an actual democracy, would have voted the stadium deal into oblivion.
For their money $2.4 billion by the time the bonds are paid off they were promised rather more than an all-star shortstop and dependable pitching.
This stunning expenditure was supposed to revitalize the eastern reaches of Little Havana.
Back when the County Commission was debating the stadium deal, a Marlins vice president wrote to the Herald describing how baseball stadiums transform urban areas into major entertainment districts, filled with restaurants, cafes, bars and shops.
At least these carping fans got a season, however dismal, with Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, the dazzling Jose Reyes and other notable athletes before they were smuggled off to Canada. So maybe theyre feeling deceived. But theyve still got themselves that air-conditioned, architectural wonder with its retractable roof where theyll be able to watch a gang of low-rent players who surely wont do much worse in 2013 than the guys who earned $100 million on their way to losing 93 games in 2012.
Meanwhile, the greater community, the folks assured that they were funding not so much a baseball stadium but a full-blown economic renaissance in Little Havana, got nothing out of the deal. Nothing, said Miriam, the longtime bartender at the Bowl Bar. Presumably, the Bowl Bar, at the northwest corner of the stadium grounds, should be awash in this mythical new prosperity. We did better when that was the Orange Bowl, Miriam said Tuesday afternoon, in a bar bereft of customers. The Marlins havent brought us much business and its only going to get worse, now that theyve traded away their best players.
Along the Flagler Avenue business district, the area where that great white hump of a stadium protrudes over the northern skyline, nothing much has changed since the coming of the Marlins. Its a low-rent stretch of tiny markets and canteens and storefronts behind steel shutters and burglar bars. Instead of trendy bars and restaurants, the area has too many used car lots and auto repair shops. Ive seen very little change, said Loreta Rodriguez, who operates Andys Assurance Agency on a block of Flagler parallel with the stadium. She didnt sound optimistic that the change was coming anytime soon.
But the biggest lie was nestled in the long line of storefronts built into the bottom story of the parking garages the city built for the new stadium, the supposed throbbing heart of the community revitalization. And every store still empty. Every one. All 53,281 square feet of retail. Each front window fixed with a futile, pleading sign begging for tenants. Each sign suggests a complex where patrons can, Shop. Eat. Enjoy. Not unless they want to hike down to the Bowl Bar.