The Miami Dolphins are reviving their failed bid to win tax dollars for a football stadium. But team executives want no comparisons to a successful bid to win tax dollars for a baseball stadium.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has called a press conference for Monday to unveil a plan for an improved Sun Life Stadium. Sources say the plan will include asking state and local governments to help pay for a $400 million renovation of the 1987 facility.
State lawmakers in recent years rebuffed the Dolphins when the team asked for help on a less-expensive renovation. And while the economy and state finances are more favorable this time around, Dolphin executives see a bigger challenge now from lingering backlash against the $639 million ballpark taxpayers built for the Miami Marlins in order to move the baseball team from their old home in Sun Life. .
It cant be anything close to what the Marlins did, said state Sen. Oscar Braynon, a Democrat whose Miami Gardens district includes Sun Life Stadium and who sponsored a 2011 bill to raise hotel taxes to fund the Dolphins renovation plan. Unless you do something totally counter to what the Marlins did, nobody is going to vote for it.
Both the Marlins and the Dolphins declined to comment for this story. The Dolphins have not released details of how they want to pay for the renovation, or what they want to do the stadium. But sources close to the team describe an extensive renovation of Sun Life, including adding a partial roof, a redesign of the seating configuration to improve views of the field, and shifting capacity from the low-priced seats in the upper deck to the more expensive seating closer to the sidelines. Without the space demands of a baseball field, the front row will move 18 feet closer to the field, according to a person briefed on the plans.
Polls showed Miami and Miami-Dades 2009 votes to build the baseball stadium with 75 percent public money were never popular. But the Marlins recent stripping of star players from their payroll has made the new Little Havana park Topic A when it comes to plotting a Dolphins victory for winning tax dollars themselves.
Dolphins executives plan to pursue two funding sources from state and local government, according to several people familiar with the teams plans. For the first funding stream, the Dolphins plan to ask Miami-Dade to raise taxes charged mainland hotels from 6 percent to 7 percent and earmark the extra money for the stadium. The Dolphins also plan to ask Florida for an additional $2 million rebate on sales taxes on top of the $2 million the stadium already receives from the state each year under a special subsidy for professional sports teams.
Ross is expected to pledge a significant amount of the renovation money himself. Sources who have been briefed on the Dolphins proposal say the total pricetag for the project is $400 million. Thats almost double the renovation budget the Dolphins proposed when the team last went to the Legislature for money in 2011.
At the time, the Dolphins unveiled a $225 million redo of Sun Life with expanded sideline seating, high-definition lighting and a partial roof that would both shade seats during hot games and shield spectators from the kind of downpour that drenched the stands during the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami Gardens. The Dolphins, top executives at the NFL and some community leaders have warned that without upgrades to Sun Life, South Florida risks losing its standing as one of the nations top venues for the Super Bowl and college football championships.