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Miami Marlins on spending spree fueled by the new ballpark Tampa Bay Rays wish they had

DALLAS — Signs of the impact a new stadium has on the Marlins organization have become neon glaringly bright this week.

There was All-Star closer Heath Bell sitting at a Monday news conference in his new orange-trimmed jersey after signing a $27 million deal. There's today's planned introduction of dynamic new shortstop Jose Reyes, who got $106 million. And there is the very serious — like $200-plus million over 10 years serious — pursuit of superstar Albert Pujols.

All primarily made possible because of the sparkling $515 million retractable-roof facility on the old Orange Bowl site they'll move into in April.

"It's obvious," owner Jeffrey Loria said. "It creates new opportunities. And new opportunities create the ability to seek the players that you've been dreaming of."

In their new digs, the now-Miami Marlins project a massive jump in attendance — from 1.52 million last season (less than the Rays) to 2.8 million — and an accompanying increase in revenues to justify a wild spending spree that, with the potential of further additions even beyond Pujols, who was still weighing their offer vs. a return to St. Louis, could push their payroll from $57 million near or into triple digits while sending expectations and excitement soaring.

It's enough to make a team across the state with its own dreams for a new stadium just a wee bit jealous.

"I do afford myself those thoughts on occasion," Rays manager Joe Maddon acknowledged. "Of course it would make it better. Of course it would. And part of it is not just acquiring new talent but being able to retain that group that we've raised on our own, too.

"I want to believe it's going to happen. I don't know exactly when, but I want to believe it's going to happen. … But in the meantime, you can't cry about it. You don't make excuses about it. You don't say they have what we don't. I won't do that. But at some point it would be nice."

Efforts for a new stadium are stalled by a stalemate between the team and St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, who will talk only about sites in or near city limits. (And Foster has yet to follow up on an announced October plan to call Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg to arrange a meeting.)

How much a new stadium would impact the Rays will be a product of the financing details (i.e., how much they have to pay), but it obviously would help.

"We're looking for ways to enhance our revenues," Rays president Matt Silverman said. "And the more we enhance our revenues, the more we can reinvest in the business. Where fans see it most is in major-league payroll, but for us those investments are made throughout the entire organization."

If the Marlins' plan works and the team is a success, it could work against the Rays. While the teams don't battle for Florida fans, there is competition for statewide sponsors and for television ratings, and thus rights fees.

Loria, of course, is confident it will work, citing how they have spent years plotting — and scrimping on payroll, even stockpiling revenue-sharing funds to the point of being told to spend more — for this opportunity.

"I saw years ago if we were able to get a new stadium how spectacular things could get and could be," Loria said. "And we're working toward that goal now."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.

Miami Marlins on spending spree fueled by the new ballpark Tampa Bay Rays wish they had 12/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 12:21am]
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