MIAMI — When the Miami Marlins invited companies to bid on the multi-million-dollar task of cleaning the new Little Havana ballpark, the contract came with a catch: The winner had to lease a $150,000-a-year suite at the new stadium.
“And they said they were only hiring companies with experience cleaning ballparks — which knocked out 98 percent of the people,” said Rodney McGilvery, invited to bid as owner of the janitorial company Dream Clean South Beach.
For smaller firms like McGilvery’s, which employs 14, the full-time job of cleaning the 928,000-square-foot stadium, with its 36,000 seats, and dozens of restrooms and restaurants and gathering areas, would have required many additional hires, not to mention a new inventory of cleaning equipment.
Yet of the 40 or so companies that showed up for the early April meet-and-greet with Marlins executives to learn of the bid requirements, McGilvery said maybe four were qualified to do the job. The roughly $6 million contract — an in-the-ballpark figure given by the Marlins — was for five years, with two renewable years at the end.
“Most of the people were just small businesses from here or there,” said McGilvery.
The Marlins eventually went with more experienced Pritchard Sports & Entertainment Group out of Maryland, the same company that cleans South Florida’s two other large sporting venues, the Florida Panthers BankAtlantic Center in Broward County, and the Miami Heat’s AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. Pritchard also cleans Pimlico Race Track in Maryland, and has contracts with the Houston Rockets and the New Jersey Devils.
The Marlins final deal with Pritchard let the company off the hook for the entire $150,000 MVP suite package, which includes 16 seats, parking and some food deals. Instead, the cleaning company took a half suite and will make up the difference purchasing advertising.
“There were some firms that came in and, after hearing the scope, said I’m just not comfortable with this,” said Claue Delorme, Marlins executive vice president for stadium development. “We told them very clearly what the guidelines were.”
Dream Clean, it turns out, was directed to the Marlins because of its membership with the Southern Florida Minority Supplier Development Business Council, the local branch of a national agency that confirms companies are 51 percent minority, then helps them seek business opportunities.
“Our role is to connect our firms with contracting opportunities,” said the council’s president, Beatrice Louissaint, who couldn’t recall the specifics of the Marlins bid back in April. Louissaint said she could have received word of the Marlins contract from a phone call or an email, because, “Major League Baseball is a member of our national arm.”
As for Pritchard being required to lease a suite, Delorme called it standard practice for the few contracts the Marlins pay through operating revenue, and not with $514 million in public funds being used to build the $634 million ballpark. Page 3 of the 27-page request for proposal to clean the ballpark clearly states: “Successful contractor will be required to purchase an MVP suite for the term of this agreement.”
“You want them to invest in the club, I think it’s pretty typical,” DeLorme said.”
Attempts to find out if Pritchard has similar agreements with its other clients went unanswered. Though Delorme called it common practice, citing deals worked out with the Dallas Cowboys at their sparkling new football venue, Cowboys Stadium.
That janitorial contract was won by a company called Jani King Commercial Cleaning Services of Addison, Texas, — perhaps the largest of the few janitorial services in the country that service professional sports franchises.
Repeated calls to Jani King asking if it was standard practice to require a contractor to purchase some type of season ticket package, were not answered.
To build the state-of-the-art facility and its retractable roof, the Marlins put out for bid about 65 contracts. Only four or so of those are private contracts involving a client and the Marlins. They involve non-construction jobs like janitorial services, management agreements to operate the ballpark and food concessions, and the hiring of a ticket agency.
Miami-Dade spokeswoman Suzy Trutie said the Marlins were free to negotiate as they wished for their few private contracts. And Jose Galan, the county’s project manager for ballpark construction, said the Marlins have exceeded all the hiring “aspirational goals” set for them by administrations from Miami and Miami-Dade.
For those contracts, the Marlins agreed 50 percent of the workforce would come from Miami-Dade. Galan says they’ve exceeded that by 20 percent. The team also agreed to hire 10 percent of the workforce from the city of Miami. Though that number is actually been closer to 27 percent. The team also agreed that one in three of the firms hired would be based locally. And with all the contracts done, and the start of the 2012 season less than four months away, more than half of the 61 firms that won bids are local.
And though there’s no requirement, the Marlins say they are well ahead of their goal of hiring 15 percent of the operational workforce locally. Though those jobs aren’t particularly high paying, they are longer-term employment than construction work.
In the end, the decision by McGilvery, who owns the beach cleaning company, not to bid probably saved him some embarrassment. He estimated he would have had to bid as much as $40 million to win the five-year contract. Delorme said the winning bid was around $6 million.
“They were saying they were looking for people who had experience cleaning stadiums, and the room erupted. Everyone asked: Why are we here? As soon as we saw it [the $150,000 suite provision] on the board, everyone asked questions, like if we could make payments,” said McGilvery. “I would have had to hire an entire staff for that.”