The Dolphins have been reluctant to talk about bringing on the NFL as Ross’s partner in the deal. A mention of the possibility appeared briefly on a Dolphins-run website touting the plan, but it has since been removed.
“There is also a significant amount of NFL funding that may become available for Miami-Dade if there is a public investment component,’’ the site, miamifirst.com, said in its Frequently Asked Questions section. “We are still working through these details with the League and will provide more information as soon as it becomes available.”
It was unclear Tuesday how much league money the Dolphins might be able to pursue. A league spokesman was not available for an interview. The G4 criteria provides loans for team owners up to $200 million, but the NFL won’t put in more money than the team itself.
NFL dollars could be particularly helpful for the Dolphins, a team with one of the largest debt loads in professional football. An analysis by Forbes found the Dolphins have the third-highest ratio of debt-to-value in the NFL. The team’s $380 million debt represents about 36 percent of the $1.06 billion value Forbes gave the Dolphins in its latest analysis. That puts the Dolphins behind only the New York Giants and Jets — teams that are jointly paying off most of the debt from a new $1 billion stadium.
The Dolphins owe about $230 million on Sun Life, largely thanks to a $210 million renovation H. Wayne Huizenga funded with private dollars when he was the owner in 2007.
That debt comes due between 2015 and 2017, meaning Ross must find a way to retire or extend that debt while raising new dollars for the planned renovation. Katz said none of the proposed $400 million funding would be used to retire any of the team’s existing debt.
Despite a rocky economy and wobbly fan support, stadium profits are healthy enough to cover the team’s estimated $380 million debt, according to Forbes and a December analysis by Fitch, a financial ratings firm. “They’re doing fairly well,’’ Fitch analyst Chad Lewis said of Sun Life.
But debt payments tied to the stadium are set to increase from $9 million a year to $20 million in 2014. Should revenues dip from more lackluster performances on the field, the Dolphins may face a profit squeeze. “Continued positive revenue growth and healthy management of expenses will be vital in retaining the financial flexibility needed for the 2015 and 2017 refinancings,” Fitch wrote in December.