Since then, the debate about the stadium’s impact has continued in Miami Gardens, a city without a beach or other tourist attractions.
In 2010, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross pitched building a multi-million-dollar water park, which residents could use year-round, on a 40-acre parking lot across the street from the stadium, but that idea was shelved.
“It sounded like it would be fun for the kids in this community,” lamented longtime resident Geraldine Solomon. “I wish the water park would come instead of this remodeling.”
Charles Brodbeck, who opened sandwich shop Sub Center on the corner of Northwest Second Avenue and 199th Street in 1974, said small businesses rely on local customers — not outsiders brought in by games and events at Sun Life. During big events, he said, locals avoid the area and hurt business.
“We don’t reap any giant profits or benefits,” he said, adding that when Miami Gardens hosted the 2007 and ’10 Super Bowls, “People were coming straight from the Turnpike, into the stadium, and back out.”
Mayor Gilbert said that’s why he wants the renovations: to lure developers to vacant parcels next to and across from the stadium.
“This is a major sports facility that doesn’t have restaurants around it,” he said. “It doesn’t have a real, quality hotel around it. It doesn’t have places where people can spend money.”
Dolphins CEO Dee pointed to Miami Gardens’ busy Walmart — across the street from the stadium — as an example of Sun Life’s economic impact. But, he acknowledged, “We’ve got to do more.’’
Elected officials promised a Little Havana economic revival when they signed off on the Miami Marlins’ new ballpark in 2008. But there has been little evidence of that outside the stadium, which opened last year, other than a new eatery or two.
“Anyone who’s started a business knows that it takes at least three years to get that business going,” Commissioner Jordan said. “Economic development takes time.”
Two hotels have approached her office about opening in her district, she added, though that was unrelated to the Dolphins’ plan.
Dee refrained from mentioning the Team That Must Not be Named, referring only to “the other facility” and reiterating that any public financing would be different than the unpopular Marlins deal.
The Dolphins, Dee emphasized, are the only local professional sports team that pays property taxes, which fund public services.
What he didn’t say: a potential deal could give ownership of the stadium, which sits on county land, to Miami-Dade, similar to the arrangement between the county-owned AmericanAirlines Arena and the Miami Heat.
In that case, the county would provide an operating subsidy to the team, which would no longer have to pay taxes.