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Federal regulators probe Miami stadium bonds

Workers wait outside the construction site of the new Florida Marlins stadium in downtown Miami, Florida
Workers wait outside the construction site of the new Florida Marlins stadium in downtown Miami, Florida

MIAMI (Reuters) - Federal securities regulators are investigating the public financing of Miami's new professional baseball stadium and have issued subpoenas to local governments for masses of documents.

Already a feature of Miami's skyline, the retractable-roof stadium built for the Florida Marlins is scheduled to open next year and cost about $640 million, with roughly 80 percent of the financing coming from Miami and Miami-Dade County.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer who issued the subpoenas was not immediately available but described the requests in a cover letter to the county as fact-finding meant to determine if the bond deals had involved possible violations of federal securities laws.

"They're investigating the issuance of bonds," said county spokeswoman Suzy Trutie. "We are assembling papers from several years from many departments, and it will probably take weeks to finish."

According to the subpoenas, the SEC set a January 6 deadline for copies of minutes, letters and other papers involving government officials and executives of both the Marlins and Major League Baseball.

"We are aware of the investigation that the SEC is conducting on the issuance of the county's and city's stadium and parking bonds," said Carolina Perrinas de Diego, a spokeswoman for the Marlins. "Of course, we will fully cooperate with the SEC's investigation."

The owners of the team, which will change its name to the Miami Marlins, hope the new, futuristic stadium and its parking garages in Miami's Little Havana section will jump-start attendance that now ranks among the lowest of MLB teams.

In March, the Miami-Dade County mayor, Carlos Alvarez, was driven from office in a recall election mostly because he had championed the bond deals for the new stadium as south Florida weathered a harsh economic downturn. His replacement opposed the public financing.

(Reporting by Michael Connor in Miami; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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