The home-run sculpture Derek Jeter doesn’t want in Marlins Park would move to Miami’s Museum Park under a detailed county plan to accommodate the new team owner by finding an alternative spot for the seven-story homage to Florida kitsch. The county says the plan, drafted weeks ago, is “dead” and that the hunt continues for a new place for the “Homer” sculpture.
TAKE THE POLL: What should be done with the sculpture?
Renderings created by Miami-Dade County show the fish-festooned sculpture towering above pedestrians at the waterfront city park, its mechanical marlins clearing the palm trees that line the eastern shoreline. A draft term sheet written last month for the Marlins requires the team to pay for dismantling the $2.5 million sculpture at its current location behind center field and rebuilding it two miles away as a “central feature” in the downtown park next to the Peréz Art Museum Miami.
Michael Spring, the county’s director of cultural affairs, supervised creating the relocation plan, written weeks after he and Mayor Carlos Gimenez met with Jeter and team executives about the new front office’s desire to clear out the signature emblem of Jeffrey Loria’s tenure as team owner. After the county released the internal documents Wednesday under a public-records request, Spring said the Museum Park plan was no longer under consideration because of a belief that Miami wouldn’t endorse it.
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“It’s old news at this point,” said Spring, whose title is senior advisor to Gimenez. “I’m saying pretty definitively: It’s a dead plan.”
Miami administrators, including Mayor Francis Suarez, had no comment Wednesday.
Spring described Museum Park as one of three initial locations explored by the county in recent weeks. The other two are Miami International Airport and PortMiami, both county-owned facilities. Spring said Gimenez wants to look for a new “Homer” home on county property, to avoid complications with having to reach a deal with another government.
Any move will have to wait at least until the fall. Spring said the window to get “Homer” out of the ballpark before Opening Day on March 29 has passed. That gives the Gimenez administration more time to find a spot for the sculpture and convince artist Red Grooms to endorse the move.
Spring said Grooms, a renowned pop artist out of New York, has the right to disavow the sculpture if it ever moves, rendering the mechanical tower close to worthless as a piece of art and forcing the county to write down a significant chunk of its $2.5 million value.
Grooms, who won a competition to create a signature art piece for the county-owned stadium’s 2012 opening, doesn’t want the sculpture to move. In a Feb. 2 letter to Spring, Grooms warned he didn’t design his sculpture to survive beyond the confines of a retractable-roof stadium.
It’s old news at this point. I’m saying pretty definitively: It’s a dead plan.
Michael Spring, senior advisor to the mayor
At Marlins Park, “Homer” is protected from “the heat, the rain, and corrosion from sea salt air,” Grooms wrote. It “is not structurally built to withstand hurricane force winds.”
Then there’s the issue of moving the sculpture from a secure ballpark to a city park. Grooms cited worries about vandalism or someone being injured by the sculpture’s whirring arms of fish and seagulls — features that come to life in Marlins Park whenever a Miami player hits a home run.
“Its purpose was to cheer on the team and to ‘hoop & holler’ along with the fans,” Grooms wrote in the letter, also released on Wednesday. “Its drama is defined by the 29 seconds it takes to round the bases on the way home to home plate. Homer’s intent is to create as big a ruckus as he can during that short and magic span of time.”
Gimenez, who was a county commissioner when Grooms won the commission in 2009, has said he’s not a fan of the artwork. Jeter hasn’t publicly admitted to wanting the sculpture gone, but has telegraphed his distaste for it when pressed by reporters. “It’s unique,” Jeter said Feb. 13 when asked if he liked the artwork. “It’s a unique sculpture.”
Eugene Ramirez, a city spokesman in Miami, cited the Grooms comments published by the Miami Herald as evidence Museum Park isn’t the right place for “Homer.” “The artist’s concerns suggest it’s not a suitable location,” he said.
Its sole purpose is to create fun and positive feelings for the home team. As an artist and a sports fan, I am very proud to be a small part of of the Marlins and the MLB.
Red Grooms, the sculpture’s creator
Jeter and partners bought the Marlins last fall for $1.2 billion, inheriting a franchise that has suffered from weak attendance since the nearly $600 million ballpark complex opened. Grooms said he designed the sculpture to delight fans and boost the first Major League Baseball franchise to play within the city of Miami.
“Its sole purpose is to create fun and positive feelings for the home team,” wrote Grooms, whom Loria, a New York art dealer, recommended for the county’s ballpark commission. “As an artist and a sports fan, I am very proud to be a small part of of the Marlins and the MLB.”
Grooms’ opposition didn’t stop the county from pursuing a Museum Park plan. The draft terms sheet with the Marlins is dated Feb. 12, more than a week after the artist formally put his objections in writing.
Jeter, under fire for cutting payroll and trading star players, would take on a new cost center under the move. The draft terms require the Marlins to pay for storing “Homer” in an air-conditioned facility until the new Museum Park site was ready.
The team also would have to pay Grooms to supervise a redesign of the sculpture for Museum Park, including adding artistic features to rear portions of the sculpture currently obscured in the ballpark. The team also would have to pay all maintenance costs associated with the sculpture in its new home off Biscayne Bay.
A draft memorandum of agreement with Miami said the sculpture would be “experienced and enjoyed as a central feature” of Museum Park. Spring said the document was prepared by the county but never shared with Miami officials.
How would a sculpture designed to come to life on cue — spraying water, flashing lights and sending marlins and seagulls spinning and leaping — function in a city park across from residential buildings?
Spring said one advantage of moving “Homer” from Marlins Park would be that the public could see it without buying a ticket to a ballgame. He also said a relocated sculpture could come to life on a set schedule, giving residents and visitors a chance to schedule a visit around seeing “Homer” activate. The Marlins term sheet said the unspecified Grooms fee would include paying him for “consideration of the audio and kinetic elements” needed for Museum Park.
Miami and Miami-Dade are already feeling heat about a tentative plan to build two museums — one honoring Cuban exiles and one honoring African-Americans — on two acres of a 20-acre park that already houses the Pérez art museum and the Frost science museum. The notion of making room for “Homer” did not go over well Wednesday with a top critic of the museum plan.
“I’m opposed to anything having to do with Jeffrey Loria,” said Peter Ehrlich Jr., a board member of the Urban Environment League. “We need grass and landscaping. No more structures.”