Dave Barry

Classic ’00: Out of the park

The new Marlins Stadium at sunset on Wednesday, March 14, 2012.
The new Marlins Stadium at sunset on Wednesday, March 14, 2012. Miami Herald Staff

(This Dave Barry column was originally published Wednesday, April 19, 2000)

You people are GOOD.

I’m talking about you people who entered my contest to figure out how we can finance a new baseball stadium for the Marlins in downtown Miami. You came up with some GREAT solutions. Talk about creative! Talk about innovative! Talk about the suspected involvement of drugs!

No, really, you people had many excellent ideas. In fact, I’m wondering if we should just kick all our local politicians out of office and let you, The Herald’s readers, run our government. Of course, then there would be local politicians loose on our streets, which could lead to a crime wave. Also, our politicians are a fabulous source of comic diversion. For example, on April 10, during Episode 2,437 of the Elian Gonzalez Never-ending Soap Opera from Hell, I saw Miami Mayor Joe Carollo, with a straight face, make the following statement on CNN: ``Miami has a long tradition of being peaceful and nonviolent.’‘ When I heard that, I spat my beverage roughly 36 feet. You cannot put a price on that kind of entertainment.

But getting back to the contest: As you may recall, I asked you to figure out how we could finance a new stadium for the Marlins, taking into account that the Marlins’ billionaire owner, John Henry, does not wish to pay for it, and there aren’t enough Marlins fans to pay for it, and the taxpayers sure as heck don’t want to pay for it.

A lot of the people who responded had variations on the same basic idea, which is to tax our single biggest local industry: municipal corruption. Many of you proposed taxing bribes and kickbacks to elected officials; many also proposed taxing lobbyists. I agree that, if we could actually do this, we could build the stadium in no time. But I suspect - call me a cynic - that people would find a way to avoid paying these taxes. They’d pay bribes and kickbacks to avoid the Bribes and Kickbacks Tax.

Along similar lines, a number of people suggested that we simply include the new baseball stadium in the budget of Miami International Airport. The thinking here is that, what with all the other overruns at MIA, nobody would even notice a minor detail such as a $400 million stadium. The problem with this idea, of course, is that the stadium would take forever to get built, and it would wind up having some serious flaw, such as an infield with three pitchers’ mounds and only one base. THE CRACK TAX

Another airport-related financing plan was suggested by John M. Towle, who proposes that ``everyone buying anything inside MIA [food, cocktails, drugs, clothing, firearms, etc.] will pay a surcharge. For example, a $2 package of crackers will be sold for $3. A $2 million crack purchase will cost $2,100,000.’‘

There were many other tax-related ideas. Fernando Cordal proposed a tax on ``overweight Speedo-wearing French Canadians.’‘ Dolores Seidl proposed a $25 tax on each person involved in an accident on I-95 (``the stadium should be paid for in three months,’‘ she notes). David Jenkinson proposed a tax on ``people whose occupation requires them to wear one leather glove.’‘ A number of people suggested taxing the Marlins’ players, or having them raise the money themselves by panhandling at intersections. Other people proposed taxes on lawyers, on criminals, on dead people, on dead people who vote, on demonstrators, on riots, on the news media hanging around the Elian Gonzalez house, on the usage of the name ``Elian,’‘ on empty stadium seats, on fans who root for the opposing team, on each gob of spit emitted by baseball players, on each nosepick committed by South Florida drivers, on people who propose new taxes, on sunlight, on breathing and on going to the bathroom. THE FAT HUNTERS

These are all excellent ideas, but if you ask me, we already have enough taxes. I was looking for a more creative way to fund the stadium, and you readers did not let me down. Here are some of the proposals that I thought were particularly strong:

Andrew Marshall, a journalist for the London Independent newspaper who was in town to cover you-know-what, offered a fascinating suggestion. ``Florida was once owned by the Grosvenor [literally: `fat hunters’] family,’‘ he notes, ``and they are still around. The Duke of Westminster has done fairly well for himself: He owns some real estate in Britain called London. Why not offer to hand him back the state on condition that he builds a decent baseball stadium?’‘ Marshall suggests that, as an inducement to the Duke, we could ``change the name of the Marlins to, perhaps, the Florida Fat Hunters.’‘ As an added inducement, he suggests that we could ``perhaps even start speaking English.’‘

Susan Siniawsky wrote: ``Two words - Bake Sale.’‘

Clinton Armstrong suggested that we get rich people in Boca to pay for the downtown Miami stadium. ``We change our county name [again] to Boca-Broward-Miami-Dade,’‘ he wrote. ``That will fool them into thinking we are all one big city. Then we name the stadium `BOCA SOUTH’ and send out special property tax notices. They will be easily deceived because they haven’t been swindled by Miami-Dade politicians . . . yet.’‘

A reader named Jeff Dorico, who apparently did not care for my stadium article, suggested: ``Just put a headline on The Miami Herald every day that states `Dave Barry NOT appearing in this edition.’ The editors then ask everyone who is happy with the idea to send a dollar every time they see that headline. This way the Marlins will have that new stadium by next season.’‘ (For the record, this plan sounds GREAT to me.) THE RIGHT TURN

Michael Rydson wrote: ``I propose a South Florida Turn Signal Package. For something like $52.75, the dealership disconnects or removes the turn signals, thus providing revenue for the stadium AND removing a useless and burdensome feature (the existence of which most South Floridians are oblivious) from the automobile. Not to mention, saving everyone from thinking that old guy in front of them is turning left here . . . no, he’s turning left here . . . no wait, he’s turning left here . . . no, I guess he’s turning left here . . . ‘‘

Hanneke van Busschbach proposed: ``Name the stadium DOT.COM and do an IPO on NASDAQ.’‘

Mike Noonan suggested: ``Why not charge the opposing teams a fee for the privilege of coming to Miami to beat up on the Marlins? After all, the Marlins are only helping out the other team: padding statistics, increasing their winning percentage, etc. Or, maybe the Marlins could auction off all the home run balls they hit this year on Ebay. Since there should be less than three, that makes them pretty rare and valuable.’‘ (Similar ideas were proposed by Mike Borello and Ann Goldwyn.)

Jay Kline came up with a plan for economizing on the stadium: ``My wife and I have talked it over and I’ve decided that I can build the new complex for $200 million - that’s a $200 million savings right there. I took metal shop, wood-working and built my own koi pond.’‘ He estimates that ``I’ll be taking a century to build the thing.’‘ HABITAT FOR MARLINS

Albert Katkow suggested that we contact former President Jimmy Carter and ``ask him if he can postpone building homes for a couple of years and concentrate his efforts on building us a stadium instead.’‘

Tom O’Brien Jr. wrote: ``From an amusement park, borrow one of those cages with a big drum of water with the collapsible platform above. Keep water chilled to 45 degrees. Place Mr. Henry on platform 18 hours a day. Millions of people will pay $1 each to throw balls at the trigger that plunges him into the water.’‘

Jack Barr pointed out that we might not need a new stadium. ``With the `crowds’ that the Marlins are drawing,’‘ he noted, ``they don’t need a new domed stadium downtown. With minor renovations, i.e. removal of seats, they could play in the Miami Arena.’‘

These are all excellent ideas. But there were three entries that stood above the rest.

The second-runner-up idea was submitted by Dan Aber, who proposed that we raise the money by letting people into Marlins games for free, but then - here is the beautiful part - charging them to leave. ``The way the Marlins been playing,’‘ he wrote, ``I think you can name your price.’‘ (A similar idea was proposed by Norman Spiegel.)

The runner-up idea, submitted by Eric Seiden, had an elegant simplicity: ``It’s really quite simple. Sell the team. Then he’ll have money to pay for a stadium. The fact that a team won’t be in it should not substantially detract from current attendance.’‘ Fine idea! Mr. Henry could enjoy the benefits of owning his own stadium, WITHOUT all the hassle of owning an actual team. THE WINNER IS. . .

But one idea struck me as even better yet, because it truly embodied the spirit of this community. It was proposed by Evan Morgenstern, who wrote: ``We’re Miamians, dammit! Just steal some other city’s stadium.’‘ That’s it! It was staring us in the face all along!

As the contest winner, Evan will receive first prize - the inestimably valuable Dave Barry for President Campaign Paraphernalia Package, PLUS two desirable tickets to a Marlins-Cubs game. (There is no second prize, although one wiseacre reader, Howard Leibowitz, suggested that it should be four tickets.)

For the rest of you who took the time to enter: Thanks for caring about this important issue. It is because of your deep concern for the community that South Florida is the amazing place that it is. Please, whatever you do, do NOT stop taking your medication.

(c) 2000, Dave Barry This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited. Ordinary links to this column at http://www.miamiherald.com may be posted or distributed without written permission.

Construction of the Miami Marlins new stadium on the old Orange Bowl site in Little Havana is underway, July 2010.

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