Club officials, Hialeah mayor to meet

Club officials to meet with Hialeah mayor

MIAMI -- Exploring all options for a new stadium in South Florida, Marlins executives are scheduled to meet with Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina on Monday.

Team president David Samson, along with other club officials, are in the process of searching for a new home for the Marlins, who have played at dual-sport Dolphins Stadium since their inaugural 1993 season. The Marlins share the facility with the Miami Dolphins.

Unable to get a baseball-only stadium deal done in the area, the Marlins were granted permission by Major League Baseball in late November to seek relocation options if a deal cannot be worked out in South Florida.

The Marlins are considering Hialeah, a Miami-Dade County option, after talks stalled with Wayne Huizenga regarding a new facility next to Dolphins Stadium.

To remain in South Florida, the Marlins insist they need a retractable-roof park. Hialeah, which is south of Dolphins Stadium, has a couple of land possibilities. But more than location, figuring out a financial plan promises to be the biggest hurdle.

After commitments from Miami-Dade County and the club, there still remains a $70 million gap in funding for a new stadium in the county.

While remaining in South Florida is the preference for the league and team, the Marlins are checking into other locations. Club officials already have visited San Antonio, Texas, and Portland, Ore. Sometime in February or March, the team is planning on traveling to Charlotte, N.C.

Las Vegas, while no official visit has been announced, is believed to be a serious contender. Northern New Jersey and Northern Virginia also are possible visit spots.

This time last year, the Marlins were finalizing a local stadium deal with the city of Miami regarding a retractable-roof stadium next to the Orange Bowl. But that deal fell through when a bid for state money, in the form of a sales tax rebate, was rejected by the Florida Legislature.

Even without the assistance from the state, the Marlins, city of Miami and Miami-Dade County continued negotiating until talks collapsed a few months ago.

The Marlins are set to meet with Hialeah officials days after the state of Florida released a report showing sports and recreation in general are a big economic attraction for the state.

The report released in Tallahassee shows that sports and recreation will infuse $32 billion into Florida's economy in 2006, with golf accounting for a high percentage. The report added that sports produce $2.1 billion in tax revenue for state and local officials.

Spring Training alone provides a sizable share. The six-week Spring Training period in 2004 generated $453 million to the state.

Should the Marlins secure a new stadium in Hialeah, or somewhere else in South Florida, the facility likely would be granted an All-Star Game within a few years after opening.

Recent history shows that hosting an All-Star Game has huge economic benefits, roughly $50 million-$70 million in economic impact.

The Marlins are signed to play at Dolphins Stadium through the 2007 season, and their contract with the stadium expires after the 2010 season.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.