Miami Dolphins Stadium Deal Nearing May 14 Referendum

The Miami Dolphins reached an agreement with local officials that paves the way for a referendum on whether taxpayers should support part of a $350 million upgrade to the Sun Life football stadium.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who has called the improvements essential to attracting future Super Bowls and other events, said in a statement that the team will pay for about 70 percent of the renovations and any cost overruns. The Dolphins proposal comes two years after voters, upset about public financing of the $515 million Miami Marlins baseball stadium, helped oust Miami-Dade County’s mayor.

Current Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who opposed an earlier proposal that would have split the costs almost equally with taxpayers, said he could back the new accord after including “penalties for nonperformance.” County commissioners may vote on the deal tomorrow and, if it’s approved, it will be included in a May 14 public referendum the Dolphins agreed to fund.

“This is about getting some kind of return on public dollars and it’s very similar to what we try to do when we try to attract businesses or keep businesses in Miami-Dade,” Gimenez said in a video posted on the Miami Herald’s website.

Part of the $350 million deal would be funded by raising a Miami-Dade County hotel-room tax to 7 percent from 6 percent. The Dolphins would receive 75 percent of the added revenue, up to an initial cap of $7.5 million annually, for as long as 26 years. The team would repay the county and state as much as $167 million for its share of the costs in about three decades.

New Features

The planned upgrade includes adding a canopy roof, new video screens and wider seats for the stadium built in 1987. The 2007 Super Bowl at Sun Life Stadium was played in the rain.

Even if voters approve the financing plan, the county can cancel the agreement if National Football League owners, meeting on May 21-22, don’t award the 2016 or 2017 Super Bowl to Miami. The Florida legislature must also approve any plan to provide tax revenue for the stadium.

The proposal to seek public financing sparked a row between Dolphins owner Ross and Miami-based car magnate Norman Braman, both billionaires. Braman, a former owner of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, called public financing the equivalent of “welfare for a multibillionaire” and vowed to fund opposition to a referendum. Ross has enlisted support from hoteliers such as Donald Trump and Jonathan Tisch, co-owner of the NFL’s New York Giants.

“I love this community and nothing would make me prouder than watching the Miami Dolphins play a Super Bowl in a modernized Sun Life Stadium,” Ross said. “I know that together we can make it happen.”

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