Miami taxpayers will foot a nearly $2 million bill for police and firefighters working off-duty at this week’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game and festivities despite a stadium contract requiring that the Miami Marlins pay for those services.
The city’s police and fire chiefs believe the department’s staffing of security and paramedics for the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby at Marlins Park, and a related parade and 5K, will cost the public somewhere between $1.5 and $1.8 million. Most of that money will pay for the police intelligence, bomb squad detail, and officers coordinating traffic and keeping event areas secure, according to Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes.
Miami Commissioners agreed to spend the money in September when they authorized this year’s nearly $1 billion budget.
But should they have?
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Under the team’s operating agreement for its heavily subsidized $515 million stadium, the Marlins are supposed to pay for off-duty police and fire services for “jewel events,” such as the All-Star Game. The agreement stipulates that city cops patrol the area outside the Little Havana ballpark, and that the interior of the stadium be patrolled by officers from Miami-Dade County.
The county, however, declined to eat the approximately $1 million cost of patrolling the games.
We know what the contract says.
Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso
Back in February, when the team asked the county to support the event by providing its police officers and firefighters free of cost, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the team that it would have to pay the bill due to the terms of its operating agreement.
“According to the agreement, the Marlins organization was responsible for paying for these services. It was not to be a taxpayer expense, which of course it would be had we in-kinded it,” said Michael Hernández, a Gimenez spokesman. “That information was verified by county attorneys.”
But the team’s operating contract didn’t stop the city from agreeing early on to pick up the tab. Back in 2014, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado — who like Gimenez used his opposition to the Marlins’ controversial stadium agreement to help win his election — committed in a letter to then-Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig that the city would pay for public safety “subject to available resources.”
“The letter was very specific about the commitment we made,” Regalado said in an interview.
Gimenez wrote a similar letter of support for the Marlins’ All-Star Game bid just eight days later, but stopped short of promising to pay for police and firefighters.
City Manager Daniel Alfonso said the city’s promises trump the Marlins’ contract.
“We know what the contract says,” Alfonso said. “We made the commitment at the time that they were bidding for the game. It wouldn’t be right to use that to attract the game and then turn around and not support it.”
Major League Baseball and the Miami Marlins are grateful for the City of Miami’s strong support of the All-Star Game.
Marlins President David Samson
Public investment is fairly standard when cities and teams bid for major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl, often amid expectations that communities will reap far more than they spend. This year, the Marlins and tourism boosters estimated that the All-Star Game would bring $80 million to the region, including Miami and Miami Beach, which also ate the cost of off-duty police for patrolling the FanFest at the city’s convention center.
San Diego, for instance, agreed to pay $1.5 million for police and fire services for the 2016 All-Star Game.
Marlins President David Samson didn’t comment Friday on the county’s stance. But in a text message he thanked Regalado and the city for their “strong support of the All-Star Game.”
“They honored the commitment they made to bring the All-Star Game to Miami.”