Ross made a similar comment in January, saying “There is a limit of how much capital that you can put into something..” Dee issued a statement Sunday night, and said of Ross: “No franchise owner in the history of South Florida sports has ever invested more. Our ability to continue to invest unilaterally is not limitless.”
Ross has touted the upgrades as a way to bolster Sun Life’s ability to attract major sporting events to South Florida. That includes national college football championships and global soccer games in the summer to fill the gap left by the Marlins’ move to a new ballpark in Little Havana.
But the prize of Super Bowl L looms large in the team’s campaign, with supporters seeing the milestone anniversary as ratifying Miami’s reputation as one of the top big-event cities in the country. This month, New Orleans tied South Florida’s record of hosting 10 Super Bowls, and Dolphins supporters warn that dynasty is in jeopardy without a major upgrade of the stadium, built in 1987.
Skeptics doubt the 50th Super Bowl could draw that much more spending to a location like Miami, since the championship game always brings a sold-out stadium, packed hotels and a long roster of corporate social events. While the Dolphins contend Super Bowl L would mean an additional $500 million to South Florida’s economy, some academics put Super Bowl boosts at closer to $50 million for a host city that already has a thriving tourism business in the winter.
With Miami-Dade lawmakers in Tallahassee cool to the Dolphins bill, a referendum could shake up the political calculus and win approval of the bill the Dolphins need to raise hotel taxes in Miami-Dade.
But with the county still in a budget crunch from the housing crisis, the cost of the referendum is a sensitive topic — and could give the Dolphins an opportunity for good will if Ross can find a way to pay for it. County Commissioner Lynda Bell, who cast one of nine votes in the non-binding resolution supporting the Dolphins, issued a statement this weekend demanding the team pay for the referendum.
In 2005, racetracks agreed to deals with Broward and Miami-Dade to pay almost $7 million upfront to cover the cost of a special election to allow slot machines into the tracks. The arrangement was structured so that the gambling companies were paying for anticipated costs to the government if the measure passed rather than for the election itself.
The measures both passed, but opponents at the time questioned the idea of letting businesses fund elections that benefitted them. A 1983 opinion by the Florida Secretary of State concluded: “Under a private financing scheme, election financiers could acquire unprecedented influence over elections.”
Letting county voters decide the Sun Life matter would be free if the question was added to the ballot during a regularly scheduled election, but the next one isn’t on the calendar until the August 2014 primary.
By then, Ross’ fellow NFL owners may have awarded Super Bowls through late in the decade, since in May they plan to pick host cities for both the 2016 and 2017 games. South Florida is competing with San Francisco and its new $1 billion stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., for the ’16 game, and the loser will take on Houston for the ’17 game.
Super Bowls always come with a significant tab for local governments, which the NFL contends is washed away by a flood of deep-pocketed visitors and lavish spending.
The 2010 Super Bowl held in Miami Gardens cost Broward and Miami-Dade at least $6 million in cash outlays and free services, including police protection for the stadium, according to reports released at the time. The nonprofit host committee that raises money from public and private sources spent about $10 million, according to tax records. But budgets have been getting higher. Dallas reported spending more than $30 million to host Super Bowl XLV in 2011.