Miami-Dade County

Miami Dolphins want county and city dollars to move training camp to Miami Gardens

This is an artist’s rendering of the Dolphins’ planned new practice facility, which the team wants to build next to its Miami Gardens stadium. Miami Gardens and Miami-Dade County are preparing to offer the team subsidy deals to help defray costs.
This is an artist’s rendering of the Dolphins’ planned new practice facility, which the team wants to build next to its Miami Gardens stadium. Miami Gardens and Miami-Dade County are preparing to offer the team subsidy deals to help defray costs. - Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins want to move their training camp about 10 miles south from Davie to a new facility next to Hard Rock Stadium that would cost at least $50 million to build, a relocation across county lines that would be subsidized by Miami Gardens and Miami-Dade.

County commissioners on Tuesday are set to vote on enriching an existing subsidy deal for Hard Rock, an agreement that pays the team up to $5 million a year out of hotel taxes as bonuses for large sporting events held at the Miami Gardens stadium. Miami-Dade approved the 2014 agreement in exchange for owner Stephen Ross privately financing a renovation he said cost close to $500 million.

The new deal backed by Barbara Jordan, the commissioner representing Miami Gardens, would bump up the yearly $5 million cap for the county bonuses by $750,000. That’s an increase of about 15 percent. A separate deal with the city of Miami Gardens, where the Dolphins are the top taxpayer, would refund the team about $500,000 a year for its higher property-tax bill once the new training facility and front-office headquarters are built next to the stadium grounds.

Oliver Gilbert, the city’s mayor, said the money would cover a portion of what the team pays to have city police officers provide security at games. Gilbert said the subsidy packages were developed to compete with Miramar, a Broward city about six miles away that was wooing the Dolphins as the team looked to exit its current training facility and headquarters at Davie’s Nova Southeastern University.

“It’s the nature of the beast,” Gilbert said of the city deal for an NFL franchise recently valued at $2.4 billion by Forbes. Gilbert said that as the Dolphins increase their footprint, it will be easier to lure hotels and restaurants to the area, boosting a city tax base that’s overly dependent on residential property. “We’re hoping to get things in place that will help other things happen.”

Miami-Dade generally doesn’t spend public dollars recruiting businesses to relocate from neighboring counties. The county ordinance authorizing payments out of the “targeted jobs incentive fund” — the primary source of recruitment dollars for relocating businesses —states: “Companies wishing to relocate to Miami-Dade County from Palm Beach, Broward and Monroe Counties ... are not eligible for the TJIF except in cases where said companies are planning to otherwise relocate outside of South Florida.”

Brian May, a longtime lobbyist for the Dolphins, said the deal offers Miami-Dade a win over a nearby competitor for the team’s construction dollars and daily spending. The agreement will “help Miami Gardens,” May said, “when the benefits could easily go to Miramar.”

Deal documents from Miami Gardens and Miami-Dade place the construction cost at a minimum of $50 million. The Dolphins say the project, which would include practice fields, fitness facilities and offices, could cost up to $75 million to build. The franchise, which lost about 20,000 seats in the stadium renovation, would build the complex over existing parking spaces.

el clasico crowd.JPG
Teams walk into the field before the start of ‘’El Clasico Miami’’ Barcelona-Real Madrid match as part of the International Champions Cup on Saturday, July 29, 2017, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. David Santiago

While the team plays in Miami Gardens, the players spend more time where they practice. Much of the team’s roster lives in Broward, and there’s some speculation that moving the facility south would result in more Dolphins players taking up residence in the Miami area. The county legislation rewriting the deal says the complex would bring 100 jobs from Broward, “including professional football players, coaches and support staff.”

If approved by commissioners, the deal for the training facility would mark the second rewrite of the 2014 subsidy deal in less than 12 months. In December, commissioners agreed to lock in a $1 million subsidy for the team in exchange for Ross providing a new home for the Miami Open tennis tournament, which had played for years at the county’s Crandon Park on Key Biscayne.

The 2014 deal ties county payments to the Dolphins to large events. When a Super Bowl is played at Hard Rock, the team gets $4 million. For a smaller event like an international soccer match, the team gets $750,000. All payments are capped at $5 million under the existing deal.

So far, according to the county’s budget office, the Dolphins have requested $750,000 bonus payments for only two events: the 2016 Orange Bowl college football game and the 2017 El Clasico international soccer match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Miami-Dade has exercised its option to delay for 10 years the bonuses earned by the Dolphins under the 20-year deal.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the Dolphins incentives won’t boost South Florida’s economy, but will give a lift to Miami-Dade.

“I think it’s a good plan,” he said. “It won’t be any new jobs in the area, but it will be new jobs in Miami.”

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Serena Williams took part in a groundbreaking ceremony at Hard Rock Stadium, the future site of the Miami Tennis Open on March 19, 2018.