Q: Will you continue with the renovation plans if the Florida legislature declines to provide a sales-tax rebate on items sold in the stadium?
Ross: “The sales tax rebate, right now I’m optimistic. I haven’t really addressed it. If the voters voted and we only had … they still have to vote in Tallahassee to allow me to put the hotel tax on the ballot. So if that’s on the ballot, I’m sure we’ll look at it and make a decision at that point. Right now it’s a package. I’ll look at it at that point in time. I’m optimistic we’ll get both on the package and they’re both subject to the referendum.”
Q: What is your game plan for getting voters to the polls and voting in favor of the referendum?
Ross: “Well, I mean, first of all letting the facts speak for themselves. When you look at the impact of what it does and having the voters understand the benefits to them is how they’ll get to the polls. This is a win-win situation for them and Dade County. And I can’t believe that other than the rhetoric out there, that anyone would want to vote against this. This brings new dollars into Dade County and makes it such that we can bring these marquee games and events there. And I’m putting my money where my mouth is.”
Q: Mayor Gimenez said at the commission meeting that your initial offer was to let Miami-Dade take over ownership of the stadium and borrow the public portion needed to renovate it. Is Sun Life such an albatross around your neck that you’d be willing to basically give it away?
Ross: “Yeah. [Laughs]. Look, I think Miami needs it. We’re going to play there. I never threatened to move the team even though we need modern facilities. It’s a lot cheaper to do a modernization than it will be to wait another 10 years and build a new stadium. Also, when conveyance was on the table it was always, ‘We’re going to continue to pay $4 million in property taxes.’ ”
Q: You’re spending a lot of money on this effort, including handing over a nearly $4.8million non-refundable check last week to pay for an election. Why not keep all the millions you’ve spent on trying to get public funding and simply pay for the renovations yourself?
Ross: “Well, $4.8 million doesn’t pay for renovations. But I think this is important to the community. It’s my legacy to the community, as I said. It will benefit me but very marginally, from that standpoint. I believe it’s important. Being a real estate developer, I know how world-class buildings and especially a sports facility can do for an entire community.
Q: Would footing the entire Sun Life renovations be a bad investment for you?
Ross: “The fact is one has only so much money you can spend. There’s a private-public partnership here. I’m carrying more than my share of it by paying in today’s dollars roughly 70 percent of the $350 million cost. That’s the minimum I can pay and it can go higher. I think when you’re partners with somebody and everybody’s benefiting, you want to have somebody that has skin in the game.”
Q: You’ve agreed to continue to own the Dolphins for at least five years if the stadium upgrades happen …