MIAMI -- Derek Jeter may get an assist from Miami-Dade in ridding Marlins Park of its kitschy home run sculpture, which the new owner and the county's mayor both want removed.
"I just don't think they're all that crazy about it," Mayor Carlos Gimenez said after meeting with Jeter and other front-office executives at the county-owned ballpark on Tuesday afternoon. "I'm not a fan. We're looking at it. ...We'll see if anything can be done."
Gimenez won the mayor's office in 2011 in part thanks to his opposition to the 2009 public-funding package for the $515 million ballpark championed by then-owner Jeffrey Loria, a New York art dealer. As mayor, he remained a top foe of the team, and his long-running criticism included the signature feature of the new ballpark: "Homer," a $2.5 million sculpture commissioned for the stadium's 2012 opening. The Marlins paid for the sculpture as part of the team's roughly $155 million contribution to the stadium's cost.
Festooned with a carnival's color spectrum, the work by pop artist Red Grooms comes to life when the Marlins hit a home run, as marlins emerge from the sculpture's base and fountains spray skyward. It's become a lightning rod for fans -- some see it screaming "Miami," others a garish distraction. Its removal emerged on Jeter's to-do list as he and majority owner Bruce Sherman prepared to purchase the team from Loria for $1.2 billion in September.
Until Tuesday, Miami-Dade was on record saying that the sculpture could not be removed. The stadium itself is county property, and so is the sculpture -- purchased as part of an Art in Public Places program that requires builders of county-owned buildings to install art works for the public. When word of Jeter's reported distaste for the 72-foot sculpture leaked in August, the county's cultural chief, Michael Spring, said "Homer" was "not moveable" and was "permanently installed" after being designed "specifically" for Marlins Park.
Spring had a different message Tuesday when he accompanied Gimenez to Marlins Park with the mayor's chief of staff, Alex Ferro.
"Anything is possible," said Spring, one of Gimenez's top deputies and an admirer of the sculpture. "But it is pretty complicated. And I wanted the mayor and the Marlins to understand how complicated it really was. We got a good look at it today, and they saw how big it was. There's hydraulics, there's plumbing, there's electricity.
"But anything is possible. We built it," Spring said. "We can move it."
A Marlins spokesman was not immediately available for comment after the county meeting.
Gimenez said he and Spring disagree on the sculpture's value, with Spring noting it's probably the largest piece ever produced by Grooms, a well-regarded artist. The mayor described it as an eyesore, and one that blocks the view of Miami from inside a stadium designed with retractable walls to showcase the city skyline at night.
"I just don't like it," Gimenez said. "I didn't like it from the get-go."
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