Miami was once known for its beaches. Soon it may become the town that keeps building sports arenas. There are some persons in this area who have a thing for new, professional sports facilities. They just can’t have enough of them. And the money used to build them are ever harder to find taxpayer dollars.
Since 1988, in Miami alone, when you include the interest to finance these palaces for very wealthy owners of sports franchises, taxpayers will have spent billions of dollars to construct these structures.
How much money have taxpayers recouped?
American Airlines Arena (AAA) was built in downtown Miami in the late 1990s at a cost to taxpayers of $213 million. That’s not counting the value of the land. It’s a good example when we consider what is happening. The Miami Heat paid rent to Miami-Dade County for the first time last year. Fourteen years after moving into the AAA. The check was for a bit more than $257 thousand. Not a bad deal if you can get it.
I am the first to admit that the Heat has been good to, and for, Miami. They’ve won championships. That’s wonderful. I watch them often, on television. Who can afford their tickets?
Mickey Arison, team owner, is considered Florida’s richest person, a billionaire who owns Carnival Cruise Lines.
Is it fair, or even moral, to spend billions on Florida’s richest man and his basketball team (his very expensive toy) while the community last year debated whether to close down 44 public libraries for lack of taxpayer dollars to pay for them?
Then there’s our most recent stadium expenditure. The Miami Marlins stadium, built for the local professional baseball team, will have cost us, experts estimate, upwards of two billion dollars when factoring in interests during a 30-year period. A half-billion dollar expenditure made by taxpayers for a flim-flam owner who duped or paid off county commissioners and the mayor…
Just recently we’ve been reading about smooth as silk former soccer star David Beckham who is trying to bring professional soccer to the Miami area. Part of the deal would include… you guessed it, a new soccer stadium.
Beckham’s no slouch, though, understanding what’s gone on in this town, he has promised to put up private money to build the stadium. But there’s a catch. They want to build it in one of Miami’s most sought after locations, a 36-acre site at the southwest corner of the Port of Miami. The county owns the land. That parcel alone is worth more than the team they plan to bring to play soccer here. Will the county give them the land for free? Is that part of the deal – made behind closed doors?
And on March 11 I read that Stephen Ross has opened his heart and his wallet and has decided he is willing to pay to renovate his Miami Dolphins football stadium using his own money. Last year, if you will remember, he wanted taxpayers to fork over a quarter billion dollars to do it. For a guy Forbes reported is worth $5.4 billion…
Here’s the catch. Ross proposes to pay for upgrading HIS stadium if the county is willing to excuse him from paying about $4 million a year on property taxes. Let me explain it another way. You, the reader, decide to make improvements to your house. New paint, brand new bathrooms and kitchen, new appliances throughout the house, the works! And since you will be improving YOUR property, you ask the county to excuse you from paying property taxes. Try it and let me know what kind of answer you receive from county authorities.
The Ross proposal would be a loss of county funds, I might add, that goes to schools, libraries and many other government services.
But let me explain it in a way that Ross, Arison and Jeffrey Loria, owner of the Marlins, understand perfectly well. And let’s use the Marlins stadium as the example. Before the stadium was built, the Marlins baseball team was worth in the neighborhood of $250 million. Only one year after the $500 million stadium was built for the Marlins, and fielding one of the worst baseball teams in the major leagues with the second or third lowest payroll (Loria only wants money coming in…), the value of the team shot up to around $400 million.
Not a bad deal, I know.
The fact is that stadium building for rich owners is more of the same that is occurring everywhere in this country. It’s the 99 percent paying the price to make sure that the 1 percent keeps getting richer. All the while, our schools, health care and so many really important things suffer for lack of – well, what our politicians are giving away, money.