Let’s face it: Very few voters who will cast ballots in the May 14 referendum asking the public to help subsidize a $350 million Sun Life Stadium renovation will have read the 80-plus-page accord between the Miami Dolphins and Miami-Dade County. And all its details hardly fit into a brief ballot question.
So we did the legwork, and broke down the elements of the deal into handy questions and answers to guide voters in what will be a sprint of a political campaign.
The countywide referendum is still iffy: It will be canceled if Florida lawmakers don’t approve Dolphins-backed legislation before the session ends May 3. But absentee voting begins April 23 and early voting later in the month, so it helps to start learning the numbers — and understanding the fine print — sooner rather than later.
What have the Dolphins and Miami-Dade County agreed to?
In the broadest terms, they’ve agreed to three things: The county would help pay for an at least $350 million Sun Life Stadium renovation. The stadium would host a number of major sporting events. And the team would not leave Miami-Dade for 30 years.
How much would the county pay?
Miami-Dade would pay the Dolphins a maximum of about $289 million over 26 years, in monthly payments. The Dolphins have also asked state lawmakers for an additional $90 million over 30 years, as an annual $3 million sales-tax rebate. Since the 1990s, Sun Life has received an annual $2 million state sales-tax subsidy to retrofit the facilities for baseball. The Marlins left the stadium in 2011, and the subsidy ends in 2023.
Where would the $289 million come from?
The county would raise the tax rate charged at all hotels outside of Miami Beach, Surfside and Bal Harbour to 7 percent from 6 percent. Each year, 75 percent of the money raised by that increase would go to the Dolphins. In Year One, that amount is expected to be about $7.5 million. Factor in a yearly 3 percent growth rate over 26 years, and the sum is about $289 million.
Where would the remaining 25 percent go?
Some would go to a reserve fund. The rest would go to the county, for a still-undetermined use. The uses are limited under state law; the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau could vie for some funds to promote tourism, for example.
How much would go to the reserve fund?
Up to $4 million collected in excess of the amount due to the Dolphins would accumulate in the fund. The Dolphins would be able to tap the fund if there is a shortfall in collected hotel taxes and the team cannot make its private debt payment. At the end of 26 years, the reserve funds would be released to the county.
What if the hotel-tax growth rate is higher than 3 percent?
That money would go to the county. The Dolphins would receive 75 percent of the increased hotel tax or $7.5 million per year growing at 3 percent per year, whichever is lower.
Would the Dolphins pay the $289 million back?
Some of it. The Dolphins would refund the county $112 million to $120 million as a lump-sum payment in 30 years.
Where do those numbers come from?
That’s how much money the Dolphins expect to be able to borrow from private lenders now, using the county’s 26-year payments as collateral.
What happens if the Dolphins borrow more or less money?
They would be required to refund the county at least $112 million. If they are able to borrow more than that from private lenders, then they will have to refund the county that higher amount, up to $120 million.