The Miami Dolphins want a mix of state and local tax dollars to fund up to half of a $400 million renovation of their 1987 stadium as a way to keep the team in South Florida and continue attracting Super Bowls and other major sporting events.
Most of the public money would come from a higher hotel tax in Miami-Dade. This would be the third time in four years that the Dolphins have asked taxpayers to help improve the privately owned stadium, but the first time Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has pledged a specific amount of his money to the project. Ross, a billionaire real estate developer, said he would pay the majority of the costs for a renovation that would include a canopy to shield spectators from the sun and the rain.
“The dollar amounts I’m prepared to put in are probably unmatched compared to any comparable facility in the country,’’ Ross told reporters at a Monday news conference. “The burden isn’t all on me. ... I believe that this is the type of project that the entire community can benefit from.”
Under the Dolphins’ plan, the Florida Legislature would need to approve a bill that would give the team a $3 million rebate on state sales tax and allow Miami-Dade to lift its mainland hotel tax to 7 percent from 6 percent. Similar proposals by the team have failed in the past, but Ross touted the private dollars in the deal as a game-changer.
Ross and his lobbying team now face the task of winning tax dollars for a sports stadium amid lingering backlash against Miami and Miami-Dade spending almost $500 million on the new Marlins baseball park.
Norman Braman, the billionaire Miami auto magnate who led the opposition against the 2009 Marlins deal, said Monday evening he “will do everything I possibly can to fight this.”
“This is the Marlins revisited,’’ said Braman, a former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles. “This is welfare for a billionaire.”
Like most professional sports teams in Florida, the Dolphins already receive $2 million a year from Florida in rebated sales taxes. The rebate was tied to then-owner H. Wayne Huizenga renovating the Dolphins’ stadium to house the Marlins, which he purchased in the 1990s to join the Dolphins in his stadium. The current rebate expires in 2023, and the Dolphins argue they deserve a rebate tied directly to football renovations.
The Dolphins hope to win state approval for the funding by late May, when Ross’ fellow NFL owners will decide whether to send the 2016 Super Bowl to Sun Life. South Florida and San Francisco are the two finalists for the game, which is considered a big prize given it will be the 50th Super Bowl.
“There are only 18 weeks before the envelope is opened in Boston,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said of the Super Bowl award. “We’re confident we can come together as a community and put our best foot forward.”
Late Monday, the Dolphins issued endorsements from two South Florida hotels: Loews Miami Beach (which is owned by the family that owns the New York Giants) and the Intercontinental in downtown Miami. “Preserving the stadium’s ability to host the kind of large-scale events that attract a critical mass is key for our continued ability to thrive as a tourist destination,’’ Intercontinental General Manager Robert Hill wrote in a statement.