Miami Stadium Shows Complexity of Crony Capitalism

When the city of Miami-Dade County, Florida decided it wanted to build a new home for the Miami Marlins (formerly the Florida Marlins), it sunk $347 million into the ball park (with a total cost for the complex, including financing, amounting to $2.4 billion). The Marlins fronted $155 million, which is nontrivial, but still well short of the full construction cost for a facility that was built almost exclusively for their benefit. The deal and sports complex has been controversial since the proposal was first floated by the city-county council in the early 2000s, and has even been mired in an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

What caught my eye recently, however, was an interesting wrinkle in the contract. Apparently, the county leases parking spaces to the Marlins on game days for $10 a spot, allowing the team to sell them to fans and patrons for a profit. It’s a nice little deal for the Marlins, and a back door way to subsidize the team even further.

There was a catch. Apparently, Florida courts have decided that if public parking spaces are leased out to a private company they are no longer serving primarily a public purpose so they should be taxed. Sounds logical. But Miami-Dade didn’t have the funds to pay the property tax bill (and the team refused to pay the property taxes since they weren’t in their contract).

Not to worry. In the wee hours of the Florida legislative session, the Miami Herald reports (3/12/2012) that a bill was passed exempting Miami-Dade from having to pay property taxes on the garage.