The Miami Dolphins are “willing and interested” in reimbursing Miami-Dade County for any costs for the stadium referendum, planned tentatively for early May, team CEO Mike Dee told The Miami Herald.
“If the opportunity presents itself to reimburse the county for any and all costs for the special election, we are supportive and want to do that,” Dee said. “It’s been our position since Day One.”
On Thursday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez asked the Florida Division of Elections for an opinion on whether the Dolphins could pay for the potential referendum, which the county elections department estimates would cost $3 million to $5 million.
During a nearly six-hour meeting with Dee and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross last week, Gimenez asked them to agree to pay for the election if the state allows them to. The date of the referendum has not yet been announced, but it will likely be either May 7 or 14.
“I made it clear to them that I wanted them to pay for the election,” Gimenez said. “I don’t think the people of Miami-Dade should bear the cost.”
Gimenez is confident the Florida Division of Elections will allow the team to pay, he said, because the special election would not involve candidates or bond issues on the ballot. A 1980s state opinion said private entities could not pay expenses for those elections.
If the state does not allow the team to pay, there is another alternative, the mayor said: The Dolphins’ proposed legislation in Tallahassee could be amended to require the team to indirectly cover the election costs, as pari-mutuels did in a 2005 election in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Gimenez had said Miami-Dade would have to bear the expense because an existing state opinion from the 1980s prohibited private entities from funding elections. But in his request to Maria Mathews, head of the elections division in Tallahassee, Gimenez also noted that state law was amended in 1992 to require pari-mutuels to indirectly defray elections costs by depositing an equal sum with the county.
“To me, it’s all unprecedented,” said Dee, who added he was unaware of any NFL team taking such steps to secure tax dollar support in the past. “We’ll wait for the county to lay out a path for us to do it. if the message comes back from the secretary of state that it is possible, we’ll go forward.”
It was the Dolphins’ second major announcement in as many days.
They said Thursday they won’t use county hotel-tax dollars to finance renovations to Sun Life Stadium unless the NFL awards South Florida the 50th or 51st Super Bowl.
Even if Miami-Dade voters approve the funding in a potential May referendum, their decision would be moot if, days later, South Florida does not win Super Bowl L, to be held in 2016, or Super Bowl LI, in 2017.
The decision marks the latest concession from the Dolphins as they seek political support for state and county taxes to upgrade their Miami Gardens football stadium and add an open-air canopy. The team says the renovations are necessary to attract national college football title games and Super Bowls — particularly the showcase 50th game, which South Florida is vying for along with the San Francisco area.
“I hope this, combined with the announcement that we made yesterday ... shows we’re all in here,” Dee said Friday.
The Dolphins’ proposal has received approval in quick succession from several committees in the Florida Legislature but has not been considered by the full House or Senate. The team wants legislative and voter approval by May 22, when NFL owners will award the two Super Bowls.
Miami Herald reporter Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.