The Florida Marlins anticipate building of a new 37,000-seat retractable-roof ballpark to begin in November. Auto dealer Norman Braman objects to the funding plan to finance the new Florida Marlins stadium and has brought a lawsuit against the funding plan.
Braman testified Monday during the first day of the trial, outlining that the public should have more input in deciding upon the plan, which was developed by Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami.
The plan aims to raise millions of property tax dollars to fund the $515 million ballpark which will be located at the site of the Orange Bowl. The plan is also intended to pay down debt on the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. The funding package, referred to as the megaplan, is a $3 billion plan that also includes other projects, such as a tunnel to the Port of Miami. The plan was endorsed by city and county commissioners earlier this year.
Braman is suing the county, city of Miami and the Marlins over the plan. Attorneys for the county, city and Marlins argue that the plan is legal and does not require a public referendum.
Braman’s dealership is in the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency district, an area outlined to fund some of the plan’s projects, which is the focus of Braman’s lawsuit. During questioning by Braman attorney Roberto Martinez, Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess stated the Florida Marlins will receive all revenues generated by the new ballpark as well as advertising, naming and broadcast rights.
"I believe that these TIF [tax-increment financing] funds should be spent in the Omni area, where they were meant to be spent .... It's just been an almost uninhabitable area," said Braman. "These are ad valorem taxes -- taxes designed to help people -- shouldn't go to help to pay baseball players that are making a million dollars a year." Braman’s testimony concluded the first day of the trial.
Earlier in the day, a videotaped deposition of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez included statements indicating Alvarez had never seen financial statements for the Marlins before approval of public funding for the stadium and that he had no evidence the Marlins could pay for the required cost overruns.
One of the key points in Braman’s lawsuit and argument is that the city and county have no evidence that the stadium and other projects will result in a positive economic impact on the local neighborhoods. Martinez presented evidence indicating that the county and city had no definite information about the Marlins’ financial position and no proof that the stadium would be able to succeed financially.
Burgess testified in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on Wednesday that he had never requested the Marlins’ financial statements or any documents that proved the team could finance the $515 million ballpark. Martinez argued that the county is providing the Marlins with an exclusive business operation by illegally using taxing power.
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