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MARLINS BALLPARK DEAL MOVES FORWARD

The Florida Marlins finally have an agreement for the baseball-only ballpark they have coveted for nearly a decade.

Miami-Dade County commissioners - some grudgingly at first - voted Thursday night to approve a basic plan for a $515-million, retractable-roof stadium that would open in time for the 2011 season.

The team would be renamed the Miami Marlins before the facility - which includes the roof the team insisted upon, because the threat of rain is a summertime constant in South Florida - opens its gates.

The 37,000-seat stadium will be at the site of the Orange Bowl in Miami's Little Havana, a neighborhood long targeted for economic revitalization. The Orange Bowl - the former home of Miami Hurricanes football - was already scheduled for demolition.

But several issues, including the particularly thorny matter of deciding if city or county police and fire departments will be patrolling the new facility, remain unresolved.

The county would pay $347-million in stadium construction costs, mostly from tourism taxes. The Marlins would pay $155-million, some through a $2.3-million annual rent bill, plus agree to buy 5,750 parking spots from the city for 35 seasons - essentially paying off the garage-building cost.

All stadium revenues would go to the Marlins, who say they lose millions annually.

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