Marlins want $60 million in state money

Updated: January 20, 2005, 8:57 PM ET
Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Florida Marlins want $60 million in state money to finance a new ballpark, a request the head of the state senate regards as blackmail.

A day after likening the team to "terrorists," Florida Senate President Tom Lee backed off that word but said he was angry the Marlins have talked to officials in Nevada about a possible move to Las Vegas. The Marlins' lease at the Miami Dolphins' stadium expires after the 2010 season, and Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga says it won't be renewed.

"They're trying to blackmail us," Lee said. "If it becomes a question of which community wants the team bad enough, and which community is willing to pay the highest price for the sports team, you can count me out."

The Marlins want a 38,000-seat, retractable roof stadium.

"I would like for the Marlins to decide where they want to play baseball in the future and if it's in Florida, I'll try to help them, but if they want to play in Las Vegas, I'll come down and help them pack," Lee said. "That was a threat and it offended me. I feel like they're trying to put a gun to our head and I think they ought to revisit that strategy."

Marlins president David Samson sent House Speaker Allan Bense a letter asking for state help in passing a bill that failed to gain approval last year. The plan would raise $2 million a year for 30 years in what's called a sales tax rebate.

"Our lease at Dolphins Stadium expires in December 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.

The team says the state money would be the final link in its funding for a $360 million stadium. The Marlins plan to spend $192 million for stadium construction, and the team is working with the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County to raise the rest of the money.

Lee, citing the Las Vegas talks, told a Palm Beach Post reporter Wednesday, "I don't negotiate with terrorists." On Thursday, he backed off the use of the word "terrorists," but maintained he will not deal with the Marlins if they want to talk to other cities.

"That description or that term has sort of taken on a different meaning after 9-11, and I certainly don't mean to suggest that they're acting within the context of those kinds of things," Lee said. "Blackmail's a great word."

Samson wouldn't comment on the "terrorist" remark, choosing to express optimism about his dealings with Lee.

"We are working closely with the city and county to finish a deal so we can go to Tallahassee together this session to discuss completing the deal in its entirety," Samson said. "We've met and spent time with the speaker of the House and the Senate president, and we're looking forward to doing more of that in the future."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press