We need to keep up with the times, said Phillis Oeters, the chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Sports is big, big business here.
Backlash against the 2009 Marlins deal was an obstacle when the Dolphins asked for tax money in 2010 and 2011, but the baseball teams unloading of ace Josh Johnson, star shortstop Jose Reyes and other stand-out players in November revived public anger against the financing arrangement.
Baseball aside, the Dolphins also must face a Republican-controlled legislature known for its anti-tax philosophy, and a public largely against the deal from the outset.
A Miami Herald poll from October found 84 percent of Miami-Dade voters against spending tax dollars to build a roof on Sun Life.
How easily can the Dolphins draw a line between themselves and the Marlins? A full scorecard wont be available until the Dolphins unveil the details of their proposal. But the financial issues include:
• Taxes: Like the Marlins, the Dolphins plan to ask for millions of dollars in hotel taxes for their stadium plan. Raising taxes on Miami-Dades mainland hotels to 7 percent would raise an additional $10 million a year.
The Marlins deal relied on hotel taxes for most of the construction funds. But while about $320 million in public debt was tied to taxes charged hotel guests, a small portion of the Marlins stadium package also borrowed against general county funds the same dollars used for schools, police and other everyday municipal needs.
I think its a good use of the hotel tax, improving Dolphin Stadium, said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, one of the fiercest opponents to the Marlins deal while a city council member. The difference is [the Marlins plan] was a very bad deal for Miami. They used $50 million in general obligation bonds to fund that stadium.
Hotel taxes are mostly paid by tourists. If the Dolphins ask for a larger rebate on state tax dollars, that money could be seen as siphoning off funds that Florida could be spending on teachers, safety and other needs amid a tight budgetary climate.
Like many sports facilities, the Dolphins stadium already receives an annual $2 million refund on state sales tax, which the team won in the 1990s to retrofit the stadium to house the Marlins when then-Dolphins owner Wayne Huzienga first brought the baseball team to South Florida.
Dolphins executives have privately said they will ask for a new $2 million rebate tied solely to football renovations. The original rebate ends in 2023. Huizenga sold the Marlins to commodities broker John Henry in 1998 and the Dolphins to Ross in 2008. Art dealer Jeff Loria bought the Marlins in 2002 and moved the team to the new stadium in Little Havana last year.
• Ownership: Alone among South Floridas four major sports teams, the Dolphins play in a privately owned stadium that sits on county land. Last year, the team paid about $3 million in property taxes, according to county records.
The Dolphins may have to give up ownership of the facility to use public dollars in a renovation. Miami-Dade owns the Marlins ballpark, as well as the AmericanAirlines Arena, which the Heat built with private dollars in exchange for the land and a yearly subsidy of $6 million from the county. A restructured ownership arrangement with Miami-Dade will be examined closely for lost revenue, rent and other potential impacts on local budgets.
• Private dollars: Loria ultimately agreed to pay up to $155 million toward a $639 million stadium and garage complex, with Miami and Miami-Dade funding the rest. That left the government agreeing to fund about 75 percent of the construction costs.
Ross hasnt said how much money he would put up toward a renovated Sun Life Stadium, but that portion could be a crucial dividing line between the Marlins deal and the Dolphins plan.
Braynon, the Miami Gardens state senator expected to sponsor the Dolphins bill again in this legislative session, said he wouldnt support a deal like the Marlins got, with the team paying less for a stadium than the government does.
They have to have the most skin in the game, Braynon said. The Dolphins have to be the majority partner for us to be part of the conversation.
Miami Herald staff writer Barry Jackson contributed to this report.