MIAMI – The Florida Marlins (search) have met with Las Vegas officials about a possible move, saying negotiations for a new ballpark in Miami have lasted longer than the team anticipated.
Bruce Rubin, a spokesman for Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria (search), said Thursday that Marlins officials met with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and others for about 90 minutes Wednesday.
"These were social discussions, a get-to-know-each-other meeting," Rubin said. "Simply, Vegas wants a baseball team and the Marlins are a baseball team. It was decided that the two sides should get together."
He said the Marlins are negotiating with Miami city and Miami-Dade County officials over a proposal to build a 38,000-seat, retractable-roof ballpark next to the Orange Bowl. The Marlins currently play in Pro Player Stadium, which was built for the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
The Marlins say South Florida's wet and hot summers hurt attendance and that they need a covered stadium to be financially viable. The Marlins have offered to pay $192 million of the projected $420 million cost, with the government paying up the rest. One of the holdups is over who would be responsible for overruns.
The Marlins started play in 1993 — drawing more than 3 million fans their inaugural season — and won the World Series in 1997 and 2003. Attendance plummeted after the 1994 players' strike and the post-1997 payroll purge ordered by founding owner H. Wayne Huizenga (search). Attendance has rebounded somewhat in recent seasons, but is still among the lowest in the major leagues.
"The Marlins are committed to South Florida. Nobody wants to win another World Series more than Jeffrey Loria," Rubin said. "At the same time, Mr. Loria needs to examine all of his options."
He would not say whether the Marlins have met with additional cities.
Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess was not surprised the Marlins met with Las Vegas officials, but said a deal for a new ballpark in Miami is close.
"My feeling is that they genuinely want to stay in South Florida and if they genuinely want to, then I think there is a deal to be had," Burgess said.
Gov. Jeb Bush (search) said he wasn't going to comment on the various ideas for financing a new stadium, but said: "I hope they stay in Miami, or South Florida." He opposed a previous plan that would have taxed cruise ship passengers to finance a ballpark but has supported a plan that would let the Marlins keep about $60 million in sales tax revenue the new stadium would generate.