After a 15-year battle with city, county, and state politicians, the Florida Marlins have finally landed a home to call their own. Or perhaps more fittingly, their own wall to mount their name on.
The sign adorning the entrance to the local Bass Pro Shop, located approximately seven miles from Dolphin Stadium, states "Welcome Hunters, Fishermen, and other liars."
Men and Women who associate themselves with these titles are often known for their tall tales about "the one that got away," the size of catch, or how they decided to let one go.
Fishermen are often associated with lying about one other item: the details surrounded the struggle to land a catch. With last night's Miami-Dade County Commission vote, no lie is necessary.
Twenty-four years after Major League Baseball announced it would allow the National League to expand by two teams, the last of those teams received a home of its own.
Fish Out of Water
Wayne Huizenga was the first owner of the Marlins and, truth be told, if it were not for him, this city would most likely still be baseball-less. Huizenga bought in to the storied Miami Dolphins, whom he just sold, as well as then Joe Robbie Stadium in 1990 to aggressively pursue the MLB expansion.
It was this purchase, along with heavy lobbying and an impressive turnout for a Yankees-Orioles series that lead Fay Vince to grant Miami a team on June 10, 1990. Over 6,700 days later, the Marlins will finally move into their own stadium.
Not for Lack of Effort
Four (Five) No-hitters. Three owners. Two World Series. Two fire sales. One "payroll trimming." Those are just five of the benchmarks this team has passed in getting to the momentous day that was yesterday.
The common factor in all Marlins teams was strong, youthful players with tremendous upside. Each team has been loaded with talent which began with the starting pitchers; from Al Leiter to A.J. Burnett to Josh Beckett to Ricky Nolasco, the team has been stocked with talent on the mound.
If this year is any indication, a no hitter against Detroit two days ago in spring training could be a sign of great things to come.
After strong teams were built, championships were won. After Championships were one, payrolls were trimmed to make the sale of the team easier. Why? Because each owner grew tired of the politicking required to achieve anything in South Florida.
It was not until Jeffery Loria, et al, took the helm that the ownership became dedicated to the area and the fight. Thought they flirted with Las Vegas, New Jersey, Portland, and San Antonio at times, they remained persistent that Miami was where they wanted to be (and the new agreement enforces it).
Landing the Big One
Despite last night's success, this retractable roof, 37,000 seat catch was a fighter for months. Several times city and county commissions had to be rescheduled, several times amendments were made, and countless backroom negotiations took place.
After hundred of citizens protested or expressed support in city meetings, the stadium passed the city vote narrowly on Friday by a 3-2 vote.
It moved on county yesterday, where "through the chair" hundreds more spoke for just over nine hours. Amendments were proposed; some were made, some were rejected.
A pivotal moment came when Marlins President David Sampson rejected a proposed amendment, but assured the commission that it was not for its nature, but because it required the team to go back to the city and let them vote again.
To avoid a "ping pong match" he gave his word, on record, that the considerations would be placed in the construction management agreement.
Needing a super majority (nine of 12 votes) due to the girth of the decision, the county broke up the vote into to parts: the funding and the bidding. With consecutive 9-4 and 10-3 victories, the county chair exclaimed "Look at their faces!" after he announced the Marlins victory and the parties proceeded to a press conference.
It was here that Bob DuPoy, MLB's President proclaimed "This was an extraordinary session, and I thank everybody in the county for their hard work. There is a lot of hard work still to do, but the fun part starts now" and that team owner Jeffrey Loria announced the potential ground breaking in July.
Work to be done
The Marlins still must negotiate several construction agreements and fulfill many requirements under the city and county agreements. If so many as one of these agreements, such as percentage of local workers/suppliers, is not reached, both the city and county could back out.
A date the Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes will look forward to will be April 2012, when the team will be slated to open the doors into its new stadium.
A generation after pre-teens did so in 1993, $625 Million, and thousands of hours in negotiations later, parents will be able to experience this thrill yet again in South Florida, this time with their own children, and for many years to come.
Long Live the Miami Marlins.