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Loria arrives at Spring Training

Loria arrives at Spring Training

JUPITER, Fla. -- Securing the future of the franchise has long been a top priority for the Marlins. A major step on that front was taken recently when South Florida leaders approved funding for a retractable-roof stadium.

Next up for the organization is working toward moving into its own park, while grooming some of its young, promising talent.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria arrived at Spring Training on Saturday morning, and his outlook for the future of the franchise has never been brighter.

Among the highlights Loria addressed were:
• Payroll, which projects to increase to mid-range in the league
• Stadium design
• South Florida playing host to future All-Star and/or World Baseball Classic games
• New uniforms down the road

Stymied on their stadium front for about a decade, the Marlins received a boost recently when the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County commissioners each approved the final pieces of funding on a $515 million retractable-roof park that is slated to open in 2011 at the Orange Bowl grounds.

"It basically solidifies baseball here in South Florida for a long time," Loria said. "We have a home now.

"The uncertainty of the future of the franchise has always been a main problem for me and the franchise. It's hard to fall in love with something if you don't know if it's going to leave. As a fan, we needed some more permanence. We now have it."

With a stadium deal finalized, the Marlins still have economic challenges until they move into their own park.

The past few seasons, the Marlins have ranked at or near the bottom in payroll. As they push toward 2011, payroll is expected to gradually rise. It won't substantially escalate until they are out of Dolphin Stadium and playing at their Orange Bowl home.

"Down the road, absolutely," Loria said of a bump in payroll. "I think that's what we've been categorized as -- a middle-market team. It's all going to be a function of the revenues that we generate. If we have a bigger base than we anticipate, then that will go back into payroll."

What stadium stability does do is put the team in position to rethink its policy of locking up players through their arbitration years and perhaps into some of their free-agency seasons.

The past few years, without the security of a new stadium in place, the Marlins have not considered signing players through their arbitration years.

"We're going to look at that going forward," Loria said. "The dynamic has changed. We are challenged until we get into that new stadium."

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This is significant when it comes to evaluating players such as 24-year-old shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who enters arbitration after this season. Ramirez isn't in line to become a free agent until the 2012 season, yet in arbitration, his salary would dramatically rise.

While there is no guarantee the team will lock up Ramirez long term, it appears open to considering ways to get a deal done in the next year or two for the rising star.

In the near future, the organization will address internally what direction it will go on payroll projections and specific players.

"We've got to get the stadium done first," Loria said. "Putting together the team down the road is a separate issue."

On the stadium front, Loria spoke with the architects Friday regarding design.

"I can tell you it's going to be a special stadium," Loria said. "It will be a special facility which our fans will be very proud of when we're done."

Projections on when the design will be completed are six to nine months. Construction remains targeted to begin around November.

Traditionally, markets with new stadiums receive an All-Star Game. The Marlins' future home may also be a possible site for an upcoming World Baseball Classic round.

"Those announcements will come shortly," Loria said of whether South Florida would someday be a host to either an All-Star Game or a Classic contest. "The answer is yes, but we will be announcing them shortly."

When the Marlins eventually move into their park, they will officially change to the Miami Marlins. At that time, they also will revise their uniforms.

"There will be a complete change," Loria said. "Nothing has been designed yet. It will be different. It will be fun. It will be something we can all grab on to and call our own."

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

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }