Team seeks millions to stay in Sunshine State

Updated: January 21, 2005, 3:46 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Florida Marlins, already hinting they might move to Las Vegas, say it will cost taxpayers another $60 million to keep the team in South Florida, the Palm Beach Post reported in Thursday's edition.

And the state's senate president is already bristling at the Marlins "terrorist" tactics.

In a letter to state House Speaker Allan Bense, Marlins president David Samson said not only does the team need a new stadium with a retractable roof because of rain delays and fan "discomfort," but the team's landlord will not renew the team's stadium lease, which expires in 2010.

"Our landlord has informed us that it will not, under any circumstances, extend or renew the current lease; thereby, giving the Marlins no place to play in South Florida after that time," Samson wrote in a Jan. 12 letter to Bense.

Bense told the Post on Wednesday that he has not studied the request, which comes a month after a much-publicized presentation by the team to Las Vegas regarding a possible move there.

"I want to look at it," Bense told the Post.

The Marlins, though, may have a bigger hurdle on the other side of the Capitol, where Senate President Tom Lee appeared less receptive.

"I thought that we already appropriated money to help them move to Vegas," he said. "I was very disappointed that they publicly announced the negotiations and discussions with Las Vegas, and I don't negotiate with terrorists."

The Post reported Samson wants $2 million a year for 30 years. He said that money would allow the team to borrow $30 million today and "close the current funding gap" toward a $360 million stadium. The city of Miami, Miami-Dade County and the Marlins also are picking up part of the tab, the Post reported.

"This entire transaction, and in fact the future of baseball in South Florida, hinges on securing a sales tax rebate from the state," Samson wrote.

Although Samson's letter describes the money as a "rebate," under the law, the money is actually a subsidy, not dependent on how much sales-tax revenue the new stadium generates.

In fact, Wayne Huizenga's Dolphins Stadium will continue to receive the $2 million a year it has been getting for the Marlins since 1993 for another 18 years -- whether the Marlins move to downtown Miami, Las Vegas or even, as was rumored two years ago, are eliminated as a franchise.

Current law prohibits a team from getting more than one subsidy. The new language Samson wants gets around that by reassigning the existing subsidy to the football Dolphins and letting the Marlins get the new subsidy.

Huizenga -- the original Marlins owner and the current owner of the Dolphins -- tried to get $2 million a year for the Dolphins in 1997, but the plan was defeated in the House on a floor vote.

At a recent news conference, Huizenga described the Marlins' possible departure as something the team brought up first, when it was owned by John Henry. Huizenga recently said the team's departure would allow him to stage other events and improve the stadium.

"They have informed us that they are leaving," Huizenga said. "We understand that they might stay until 2010, but that is not what I am hearing. I am hearing that they will be out before that."

Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000 rejected an attempt by the Marlins under Henry to build a new park using a tax on cruise ship passengers. Then, in 2001, a $240 million tax break for a new park died on the final day of the legislative session.

An attempt last year by the Marlins to get the $60 million subsidy also failed.