After a dismal 2012 season, Marlins baseball owner Jeffrey Loria slashed payroll and got rid of a handful of expensive players, including star shortstop Jose Reyes and pitcher Josh Johnson. Miami baseball fans cried "foul!"
Loria’s moves revived debate about the lucrative public financing the Marlins won to build their stadium in 2009.
On Feb. 24, Loria took out a full-page "letter to our fans" ad in the Miami Herald and other South Florida newspapers to defend his team’s deal, saying he wanted to review the "facts."
Loria’s letter was full of claims about the team’s roster, finances and the stadium deal — with some reminders about the 2003 World Series sprinkled in.
Loria began with an admission that the Marlins’ performance on the field "stunk" and said he takes his share of the blame. But then Loria turned up the defense:
"Those who have attacked us are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. The majority of public funding came from hotel taxes, the burden of which is incurred by tourists who are visiting our city, NOT the resident taxpayers....."
PolitiFact Florida decided to put part of Loria’s claims about the stadium’s public financing to the Truth-O-Meter:
"The majority of public funding came from hotel taxes, the burden of which is incurred by tourists who are visiting our city, NOT the resident taxpayers."
Loria’s claim suggests that it was largely tourists — not Miami-Dade taxpayers — who are footing the bill for a stadium project. Is it those high-rolling tourists who are mostly paying by plunking down credit cards at luxurious hotels in South Beach and beyond? Do resident taxpayers bear minimal financial burden here for the stadium?
Marlins stadium deal
We turned to Miami Herald articles, stadium agreement documents and county officials to explain the deal.
After about a decade of failed attempts, the Marlins finally reached a deal in 2009 with Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami to replace the Orange Bowl stadium with a 37,000-seat retractable roof stadium in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami.
The stadium cost about $515 million. Add in the parking complex, and the total rises to more than $600 million.
The county, the city and the Marlins themselves all contributed to a fairly complicated deal. Here’s a big-picture accounting of what each agreed to put in:
• Miami-Dade County: In March 2009, commissioners voted for a plan that was largely funded by three different hotel bed taxes that added up to almost $300 million. (The county also pitched in other sources of money, including $50 million from an earlier voter-approved bond referendum that is being paid off with property taxes.)
We should note that while tourists pay bed taxes, so does anyone else who stays in a hotel or motel for any reason. That includes business people visiting the area, friends and family who visit local residents, and locals who live in hotels or need a room for the night.
In total, the county borrowed about $409 million for the Marlins project, which includes debt service and the cost of issuing the bonds, a county spokeswoman told PolitiFact Florida.
The county manager wrote in a memo before the vote that the bed taxes "cannot be used for general government funding purposes such as social services, public safety and public education." But some bed tax dollars can be used for non-sports projects, such as museums and theaters.