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MLB still optimistic about Marlins ballpark

      Major League Baseball is still optimistic the Marlins – despite the lawsuit filed by Norman Braman against the City of Miami – will get a new ballpark, and MLB president and CEO Bob DuPuy said Tuesday Braman’s claim the Marlins were $150 million in debt was simply not true.

“That statement was flat inaccurate,’’ said DuPuy, who believes the Marlins will survive the suit and eventually get the ballpark built on the Orange Bowl site. Braman is trying to stop the City of Miami’s $3 billion “megaplan,” which includes funding for a new ballpark for the Marlins.

“A few weeks ago I would have told you I was more concerned than I am now, given the judge’s preliminary ruling,’’ DuPuy said. “The lawsuit is an unfortunate delay. It’s one that I think should not have happened. But we do see it as a bump in the road and we remain guardedly optimistic that the commissioners will approve the definitive document and we will get a ballpark done.’’

DuPuy said MLB did not try to approach Braman in the early stages to try to derail the lawsuit.

“No one in baseball to my knowledge spoke directly to Norman Braman, and he didn’t reach out to us. We obviously have spoken with the team and the lawyers and are willing to help, but we have not talked to Norman Braman,’’ DuPuy said. “Nothing I read suggested he had any interest in being persuaded, and it’s obviously a broader attack than just the stadium. It’s on the entire global plan, and that’s local politics.’’

            The lawsuit also is creating a problem with the delay of construction, and even MLB is starting to become worried about the target date of a 2011 opening for the new ballpark.

“Because of the lawsuit that’s (2011) getting tight,’’ DuPuy said.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig, who spoke to the Baseball Writers of America Association Tuesday afternoon, joked when he was asked about Braman’s lawsuit.

“I would like to make a sarcastic remark about Norman Braman, but I won’t,’’ Selig said. “People seem to be reasonably optimistic that this is going to be settled…and it will be a great story.

“We have made some made some major comebacks in areas like Minnesota, but Florida may stand as the ultimate triumph. I’m hopeful that that matter will be resolved.’’

Tampa Bay’s attendance has soared this season because the Rays are winning, but the Marlins, who are only 1 ½ games out of first place, have seen no gains in attendance and are still last in baseball. Many believe there is so much apathy toward the team not even a new ballpark will bring in fans.

DuPuy said MLB has always believed baseball will work in South Florida.

“Because it has historically been a good market for college baseball, and historically been a good market for youth baseball,’’ DuPuy said. “You wonder if the team did too well in winning two world championships as early in their history as they did.

“We believe that solving the climate problem and coming up with a ballpark that is a destination point and having development around the at area will solve the problem,’’ DuPuy said.

“What’s good is the television ratings are very good, which means people are watching the games,’’ he said. “There are fans down there. They’re just not attending the games. We think a roofed facility will induce them to come to the games.

“There’s no team that has that kind of (TV to attendance) ratio. They are unique,” said DuPuy, who could think of only one other similar case in baseball history. “Cleveland was like that back before they got their new ball park. Cleveland was a good baseball market. They had great TV ratings and they didn’t draw flies, and when the new ballpark came they sold out for four years.’’

DuPuy even believes the Marlins fans who live in North Broward and Palm Beach will make the drive to Miami at because the new ballpark will have a roof.

“They will be going against the traffic and they are going to know the game is gong to start at 7 o’clock and they’re going to know the game is going to be over and there’s not going to be a rain delay, and there are going to be restaurants around there, and we’re hoping it will induce people to come to the ballpark,’’ he said.