The Miami Dolphins are attempting to score what would be an incredibly fast political touchdown: a one-month campaign to convince Miami-Dade County voters to sign off on a stadium construction deal.
After nearly around-the-clock negotiations at the stadium and county hall, fueled by frequent runs for Cuban cafecitos, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez hammered out a deal with the Dolphins.
During the meeting on April 10, when commissioners signed off on the referendum, Commissioner Sally Heyman asked if the stadium would continue to pay property taxes. During the negotiations, the Dolphins proposed turning over the stadium ownership to the county. The team had also appealed its property taxes two years in a row but then dropped the appeals.
Gimenez replied: "Commissioner, as far as I know the Miami Dolphins are the only professional team in the state of Florida that actually pays property taxes. And, as far as I know, the Dolphins are the only NFL team in the entire nation that pays property taxes. This does not change."
Are the Miami Dolphins the only NFL team to pay property taxes?
For the $350 million stadium deal to go forward, the tax-weary Legislature must sign off on some of the financing before the session ends May 3, and then Miami-Dade voters must approve it in a May 14 referendum. By May 22, the NFL will decide whether to award the 50th Super Bowl in 2016 to Miami or San Francisco.
Focusing on property taxes is just one piece of the finances of a stadium. Nearly all NFL stadiums have received public financing of some sort.
"No property taxes on stadiums is a part of the negotiation between the team and the relevant government entities — the trade-off very likely is a bigger subsidy coupled with property taxes, or smaller subsidies and property tax exemptions," Robert Baade, a business of sports professor at Lake Forest College, told PolitiFact Florida in an email.
In making his statement, Gimenez was repeating something he heard from Dolphins owner Stephen Ross during negotiation meetings, county spokeswoman Suzy Trutie told PolitiFact Florida.
"We’re the only team in the country that doesn’t have any public dollars with our stadium. We pay full real estate taxes. We’re the only team in Florida and the only team in the NFL that pays full real estate taxes," Ross was quoted in the Miami Herald in March. "We’re not looking to be relieved of that ... ."
Dolphins spokesman Eric Jotkoff said Ross’ statement refers to the land and the stadium, although the land is owned by the county.
Trutie said that the $3 million in real estate taxes is for "the building and the land, even though the county owns the land."
The Dolphins tax bill for the stadium itself was about $3.6 million in 2012 — that includes about $3 million in real estate taxes and the rest was for tangible personal property and local business taxes, Miami-Dade tax records show. The tax bill for the parking lots is about $368,000.
We contacted multiple NFL teams and found two in addition to the Dolphins that pay property taxes on their stadiums: the Washington Redskins and the Carolina Panthers. Spokespersons for the teams as well as local government officials confirmed for PolitiFact that the teams pay property taxes on the stadiums.
The Redskins own FedEx Field in Landover, Md. The Redskins paid about $3 million for in 2013 — most of that is for property taxes and includes a small fee for solid waste collection, according to Prince George’s County.