The National Football League may help Stephen Ross pay his share of a $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium.
Like other NFL owners seeking better stadiums, Ross would likely pursue league funds reserved for the projects, according to interviews with team insiders. The program could mean tens of millions of dollars in league money for the Dolphins as the team pushes for Florida and Miami-Dade to pay for just under half of the renovation.
The Dolphins have downplayed the NFL’s potential role as a significant player in the financing plan. Team executives say it’s too early to talk about potential NFL dollars, since lawmakers first must approve public funding for the effort.
“Until the legislation passes, it’s too speculative,’’ said Ric Katz, a Dolphin spokesman.
Miami-Dade commissioners could decide Wednesday whether to support the state legislation that the Dolphin drafted in order to fund the renovation. The project would bring a canopy to Sun Life, along with revamped jumbo monitors, new seats and stands much closer to the sidelines. Ross, a developer whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $3.1 billion, has pledged to put at least $201 million in private dollars into the upgrade of the stadium his company owns.
Commissioner Barbara Jordan is sponsoring a non-binding resolution endorsing the state bill, which would allow commissioners to raise mainland hotel taxes to fund the bulk of the $199 million Ross has requested from the public. Florida would pay $90 million over 30 years to fund the project.
The Dolphins ramped up their public campaign before the debate — airing pro-stadium television commercials over the weekend and buying full-page newspaper ads slamming their top critic, billionaire activist Norman Braman. Braman dismissed the ads as “desperate,” calling the tax-funded plan “welfare for a billionaire.”
On Tuesday, the Dolphins also released a three-page document touting the plan’s value to taxpayers. Along with the economic boost Sun Life creates when hosting Super Bowl or a national college championship, the document highlighted Ross’ willingness to use private dollars to pay at least 51 percent of the costs.
“Just because the Marlins did a bad deal doesn’t mean we should oppose a good deal,’’ the Dolphins wrote.
Securing league money wouldn’t alter the mix of private and public dollars that Ross proposed, but it could lower the team’s share of the financing. While technically a loan, the league’s stadium program uses revenue from ticket sales and other dollars that teams must pay to the league as part of a revenue-sharing program, sports-finance experts said.
Teams “have to pay it to the league in any event, whether they get something out of it or not,’’ said Mark Ganis, a stadium-finance consultant and president of Sports Corp in Chicago.
The NFL’s stadium program isn’t a secret. Created in 2011 to replace a similar program, the NFL’s “G4” loan pool is reserved for stadiums with some public funding or contribution. Teams in San Francisco and Green Bay, Wisc., are set to receive the money for their stadiums, and others in San Diego and Minnesota hope to as well. Owners must pay back the money out of team profits if the stadium revenues fall short.