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FLORIDA MARLINS

Late twist delays vote on ballpark

The Florida Marlins stadium deal has fallen apart -- for now -- over a last-minute bid by a Miami commissioner for more concessions from the ball club.

WEB VOTE

crabin@MiamiHerald.com

What was supposed to be a glorious day for the Florida Marlins and South Florida's baseball fans began on course, descended into chaos, then was saved by a last-minute decision to continue one of the most bizarre Miami City Commission meetings in memory.

For now, all that's certain: If the Marlins hope to land the $515 million, 37,000-seat retractable roof stadium, they must return before Miami commissioners on March 12. And then they must win a second round of approvals from Miami-Dade County commissioners.

The team's hoped-for victory Friday was postponed by an unexpected, last-minute bid by Commissioner Marc Sarnoff to secure a series of financial concessions from the two-time World Series champions.

While Sarnoff did not kill the deal outright, his concerns pushed off approval for at least a month and may prompt further negotiating before then.

''We need to regroup and give both sides ample opportunity'' to work out the details, said Miami Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez, a stadium supporter who ultimately moved to push the vote back after eight hours of debate.

That decision may save the project, as one potential supporter -- Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones -- was on maternity leave and did not attend Friday's meeting. With her missing and commissioners Sarnoff and Tomás Regalado firmly opposed, the stadium appeared to have no chance of success Friday.

''I do not believe that this marks the end,'' Marlins President David Samson said after the meeting.

HIGH HOPES DASHED

The day began as planned: Leaders from Miami-Dade, Miami, and the Marlins -- along with fans and opponents of the Little Havana stadium plan -- gathered at Miami City Hall for a series of votes that, if approved, would help give the ball club the permanent home it has sought for a decade.

After that vote, if all went as planned, the issue would move to County Hall, where county commissioners would cast another series of votes to cement the deal.

It never got that far.

At City Hall, shortly after the public had its say and just after noon, Sarnoff announced three demands.

Using the dais as leverage, he said he couldn't support the city's plan to spend $94 million on parking facilities unless the team agreed to cover cost overruns. He also said the city and county should share in revenues from naming rights, and that Miami and Miami-Dade should get a share of profits if team owner Jeffrey Loria sells the team and leaves town.

''Nobody should be able to flip this team and derive a profit'' without the public getting its share, said Sarnoff.

Commissioners then voted on whether to approve the stadium plan. It deadlocked 2-2, with Regalado and Sarnoff against and Sanchez and Angel Gonzalez in favor.

With Spence-Jones absent, the deadlock seemed to signal the beginning of the end to the stadium deal.

''This may be the death of 1,000 cuts to this deal,'' said a stunned and furious Sanchez -- who represents Little Havana. He soon called a recess.

An hour later the sides returned, with Samson saying the ball club was open to potential tweaks to the parking agreement, but that it couldn't alter naming rights or post-sale profit issues without renegotiating the whole agreement.

''Then the entire relocation agreement is open for discussion,'' Samson said.

Sanchez at one point declared the deal ''dead'' before backing off the statement.

''What's alarming is that I am appalled at how we have handled this,'' Sanchez said, criticizing Sarnoff for attempting to rewrite the deal on the day of the vote.

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