Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Monday he may require the NFL to award South Florida a Super Bowl as a condition for spending county hotel taxes on part of a $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium.
Gimenez and the Miami Dolphins announced they have agreed to let county voters decide whether to use local tax dollars for an upgrade of the team’s stadium and would rush a referendum to be held before the May meeting when NFL owners will award the 2016 and ’17 Super Bowls. Gimenez suggested that, even if the ballot item passes, he may design the measure to grant county leaders the option of withholding the tax funds if NFL owners snub South Florida.
“I don’t want to be eligible for anything,” Gimenez said. “I’d like to see the results and actually land something.”
In floating his proposal, Gimenez sought to flip the typical scenario in which the NFL warns that without public dollars for a stadium upgrade, a community risks losing out on the economic boost that a Super Bowl brings. Instead, Gimenez proposed saying to the NFL: Award Miami-Dade a Super Bowl or risk not getting tax dollars for a stadium upgrade.
The concept seeemed to bring a quick thumbs-down from the NFL on Monday afternoon, with spokesman Greg Aiello writing in an email: “A provisional award in May [by NFL owners] for the 2016 or 2017 Super Bowl is impractical and the request would not enhance South Florida’s chances in a very competitive situation.”
On Monday night, Aiello called to retract the statement, saying it was based on an inaccurate description of Gimenez’s plan as provided by The Miami Herald. He said Dolphins executives vetted his statement before it was released, but that it was based on the idea of the stadium referendum being held after the NFL owners meet in May — a timetable Gimenez did not describe in the press conference attended by top Dolphins executives.
“If the bid is presented and there is no stadium renovation financing plan approved, then the statement I gave earlier stands,” Aiello said in an interview Monday night. “If you’re saying the mayor’s plan is [that] financing would be in place, and there are no further votes and approvals needed, and all that is needed is the Super Bowl to be awarded, that is a totally different scenario. I would not describe that as hurting their chances.”
Gimenez was not available for comment on the NFL’s response.
On May 22, NFL owners are set to decide between Miami Gardens and the San Francisco area for the 2016 Super Bowl. The loser will take on Houston for the 2017 Super Bowl, but the ’16 championship is considered the bigger prize since it is the 50th game.
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said the team would welcome the referendum — reversing the club’s initial position that there was not enough time for one between the team’s January unveiling of its financing proposal and the looming Super Bowl decision.
“We believe a decision by the voters will go our way,” Dee said, citing internal polling and support from various community groups, including the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Miami-Dade commissioners voted last month to endorse the team’s financing plan, which relies on a new annual $3 million stadium subsidy from the state and raising the county’s mainland hotel taxes to 7 percent, from the current 6.