Thirteen years ago, on December 17, 2000, after many efforts by previous Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga, and two months of intense negotiations with the Marlins then-owner John Henry, City of Miami officials and the Marlins announced plans for financing and constructing a new baseball-only stadium in downtown Miami.
The state-of-the-art stadium was to have a retractable roof in order to address the issue of many Marlins' games being delayed or postponed due to inclement weather. It was tentatively expected to cost $385 million. The facility would be designed to seat 40,000 fans and to include 60 luxury suites, 3,000 club seats, and 1,500 parking spaces.
As part of the agreement, the Marlins would sign a 40-year lease and also change their team name from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins. The lease itself involved John Henry paying $240 million during the 40-year span along with a four percent surcharge on ticket sales to pay for the facility. The name of the Marlins was expected to change in 2004 or afterward. The exact location of the stadium was not yet determined, but the Marlins preference was to become part of the beauty and flavor of the Bayside area by using Bicentennial Park, which is next to American Airlines Arena, the home of the Miami Heat.
To further finance the new stadium, the plan was to use the surplus from a county hotel bed tax. According to then-County Manager, Merritt Stierheim, the surplus stood at more than $100 million. The then-Miami-Dade Mayor, Alex Pinellas, further supported this as he assured taxpayers that there would be no new taxes because the "bed money" was available for projects such as the stadium. Further financing help would be sought as then-State Rep. Mario Diaz Balart said that he would sponsor a bill in the following Legislative session that would call for the State of Florida to give up its sales tax revenue generated by the new stadium, to pay for stadium costs. Those taxes were calculated at roughly $7 million.
With this plan finally in place, at the time, optimism about the direction of the franchise was high, especially with John Henry's promise to keep the team intact and very likely add pieces to improve the team. However, the optimism would be short-lived as the agreement and plan ran into many snags over the years. Among these snags was this particular agreement being scrapped when John Henry sold the Marlins to Jeffrey Loria in order to buy the Red Sox in a sale that has been perceived as an underhanded deal between Henry, Loria, and Bud Selig. Other snags included failures to convince Florida legislature to approve various key elements to various versions of stadium deals by Henry and then Loria. There were also snags tied to many tense moments as Marlins ownership under Loria openly sought stadium deals in other cities, in order to leverage a deal with the City of Miami and State of Florida - a tactic that was perceived as a form of "strong-arming", especially when combined with another team fire sale.
Even after a final stadium agreement was completed, there was also the challenge to that final agreement through a lawsuit brought forth by Braman Cadillac CEO, Norman Braman. Along with these snags and others with financing, there were the snags with costs that increased every day that the deal was not finalized. Finally, and among the most important items, there were snags with the location choice that changed from the stadium being at Bicentennial Park. In the end, the stadium was built in Little Havana, at the location of the old Orange Bowl. The reported cost of the stadium was $515 million. It is reported to seat 37,000. The team's name was officially changed in the 2011-2012 offseason, in time for Opening Day 2012. The name change was accompanied by a distinct rebranding of the franchise.
While this initial agreement and announcement was not very close to the version that was finally agreed upon to bring Marlins Park to life, it was the first major step that led to the creation of the new stadium. Whenever entering Marlins Park, it can be attributed to this moment, thirteen years ago, in Marlins history.