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SBJ/20100308/Forty Under 40
Published March 8, 2010
After a new ballpark opens, much is quickly forgotten about the hard political wrangling, late-hour negotiations and grunt work needed to get the facility approved and funded.
Such will likely happen in Miami, where a new venue is under construction for the Marlins after more than a decade of fruitless pursuit. But Derek Jackson is among a key group of executives who helped rescue the ballpark deal from several near-fatal scrapes and likely saved MLB in South Florida.
Jackson, a former attorney in MLB’s labor relations office, came to the Marlins in 2003. By his own admission, he did not fully understand upon arriving the gravity of the club’s uphill fight for public aid for a new ballpark.
Unpopular previous team ownerships and a 1998 gutting of a defending World Series championship team had left fans and politicians cold to the idea of public assistance to build a new Marlins ballpark. A politically tense working relationship between the city of Miami and Dade County, and competing private interests such as a legal challenge from former Philadelphia Eagles owner and South Florida car mogul Norman Braman, only heightened the toxic environment pitted against the Marlins.
But over time, the club and MLB successfully convinced the local governments of the pressing need for a new ballpark in Miami, notably because of the club’s revenue limitations and competitive disadvantages in the stadium it now shares with the Miami Dolphins. Buttressed in part by a pledged team contribution of $155 million, Jackson played a critical role in closing the deal with the city and county governments and seeing the project through to its final agreements.
Jackson also oversees the club’s contract management and general legal affairs and was involved in the club’s recent agreement with the MLB Players Association to boost payroll as the Marlins approach the planned 2012 opening of the new ballpark.
“Being part of a team is like being in a family,” Jackson said. “It feels like you’re really a part of something. We feel like we have a big future in front of us, particularly with a state-of-the-art ballpark on the way.”