Marlins Owner Confident on Ballpark

Monday, February 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MELBOURNE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Marlins owner John Henry said he faces ``a disaster financially'' because of delays in building a new ballpark in downtown Miami.

Still, he remains confident the project will win approval from the city and the Florida Legislature.

``I think it will get done,'' he said Monday while watching the Marlins' first workout of the spring. ``I think everyone realizes this is last shot.''

Henry hoped for a decision last week on the site, but a city commission vote was tabled until March 15 for more studies.

The Marlins wanted a new ballpark to be complete by 2003, but it's now unlikely to be ready before 2005.

Henry says he lost $10 million last season, and will lose at least that each year the team remains at Pro Player Stadium.

``It's too much money,'' said Henry, a multimillionaire commodities trader. ``I don't want to think about it.''

The alternative to losing tens of millions is to dismantle a talented team, as the Marlins did after the 1997 season. Henry hopes to avoid a repeat.

``In many ways this is our fourth year of rebuilding,'' he said. ``It takes time to build a team. But I'm really optimistic about 2001.''

The Marlins return virtually intact after going 78-81 last year. They're the first team since the New York Mets in 1968-69 to improve by 10 games in consecutive seasons.

But no team has done it three years in a row since 1909, and in the NL East the Marlins must compete with two of baseball's best clubs, the Mets and the Atlanta Braves.

``The Mets and Braves don't even plan family vacations until November, and that's what we're chasing,'' manager John Boles said. ``It's up to us to do what we can to narrow the gap.''

Taking part in the workout were 38 pitchers and catchers, including the Marlins' most significant offseason acquisition, catcher Charles Johnson, who helped them win the 1997 World Series.