MLB expected to take role in search

MLB expected to take role in search

MIAMI -- Major League Baseball officials are expected to take a more active role in the Marlins' stadium search shortly after the league completes some other pressing issues.

As the league monitors the Marlins' situation, team president David Samson points out that MLB executives are currently dealing with stadium matters and the sale of the Nationals in Washington.

Also, the inaugural World Baseball Classic is about to get under way, occupying more of league's time.

In an unstable situation, the Marlins are in the process of pursuing a stadium in Miami-Dade County while considering relocation options. Samson expects to make two out-of-state visits over the new few weeks.

Still, the hope of the team and the league is to make Major League Baseball work in South Florida. The Marlins already have met with Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina regarding two potential sites for a baseball-only park: Hialeah Park (near the old horse race track) and an annexed area of land near the intersection of I-75 and Florida's Turnpike.

Both locations are a bit south of the Marlins' current home, Dolphins Stadium, in the north part of the county.

"Right now we are working with the officials of Hialeah, and we're working with the mayor there. He's a great man. He's got vision. He wants to see baseball there," Samson said. "He's doing his work; we're doing our work. We hope to meet again in the next couple of weeks. We're exploring other cities with the focus still on Florida. We'll see how the year progresses."

Follow-up meetings with Robaina will likely take place in a few weeks.

When MLB executives get more involved, they are expected to do so in speaking with local leaders and politicians, getting more familiar with the stadium negotiations. The league has a standing policy of not contributing financially in stadium matters. And MLB isn't expected to chip in for the financing of a new Marlins ballpark.

For more than a decade, the Marlins have been claiming they need a baseball-only, retractable-roof stadium. The situation reached a dire point a few months ago when the league granted the club permission to seek relocation options after a proposed deal to build a park next to the Orange Bowl in downtown Miami fell through.

Samson says the expected cost for a stadium in South Florida is about $430 million. The team is willing to contribute roughly $200 million. After the contributions earmarked for the stadium from Miami-Dade County, there remains about an $80 million funding gap on a new building.

Samson added that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria spent $15 million in stadium design for the proposed stadium next to the Orange Bowl.

Assuming a new stadium is built in South Florida, it will not be the same design as the proposed building that would have been in downtown Miami.

"We spent $15 million designing that stadium, and we don't know how much is reusable on a new site," Samson said.

What will be the same is the seat capacity, 38,000.

"Seat capacity will be similar, but in terms of design, that was designed to be next to the Orange Bowl, so the design will be different," Samson said.

Another Miami-Dade option is Homestead, which has shown an interest in talking with the Marlins. But being located south of Miami makes Homestead a long shot.

"Nothing is scheduled," Samson said of a meeting with Homestead officials. "I suspect we'll sit with them at some point, but nothing is scheduled."

The Marlins are signed to play at Dolphins Stadium through 2007, and their series of leases expires after the 2010 season.

In sprawling South Florida, Samson says the organization has stopped trying to seek an ideal location.

"I haven't seen a spot that really sticks out anywhere in South Florida. There is no perfect site," Samson said. "If you are too far south, the people north are unhappy. If you're too far east, the people out west are unhappy. So, I believe now the new perfect site is anywhere, and we'll teach people how to drive to the stadium. We'll build a tradition in this building for 30-40 years, and people will be more comfortable attending baseball games."

Without the security of a new stadium, the Marlins dramatically reduced payroll this offseason, and season-ticket sales have suffered in the process. A year ago, the club had 10,000 season-ticket holders. The number is about half of that now.

This week the Marlins are revving up for the 2006 season with their annual caravan to several stops in South Florida. The week of activities culminates on Saturday with the annual BankUnited FanFest, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET at Dolphins Stadium.

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