NFL could contribute $150 million toward Miami Dolphins’ stadium renovation

The National Football League could contribute $150 million toward the Miami Dolphins’ proposed stadium renovation, lowering the direct costs to the team for the estimated $350 million project, according to a county report released Tuesday.

Miami-Dade officials see the NFL and Dolphins contributions as coming from the same pot of private money, which would account for about 55 percent of the costs and leave the county paying about a third. But the NFL’s contribution had been one of the last remaining questions as county commissioners meet Wednesday to consider a last-minute deal between the Dolphins and Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who want to ask voters to raise hotel taxes to upgrade the 1987 facility.

Teams may use revenue that otherwise would go to the NFL to instead pay down a league loan used for stadium construction or renovation, provided the project has government participation. A Tuesday report on the proposed Sun Life Stadium financing deal prepared for the county by the PFM Group consultancy in Coral Gables notes the Dolphins would likely qualify for $150 million in NFL financing.

That would leave the Dolphins to raise another $41 million to reach the $191 million in private dollars owner Stephen Ross has committed to the $350 million project, or about 12 percent of the total, according to Miami Herald calculations. Miami-Dade would contribute enough hotel tax dollars for the Dolphins to borrow about $112 million, or about 32 percent of the total. A new state subsidy would give the Dolphins an additional $47 million.

A Dolphins spokesman said it is speculation to try to determine how much money the NFL might contribute to the deal or how it might impact the Dolphins’ direct contributions. He also disagreed with the calculations.

Add in about $170 million in rebates the Dolphins will pay the county and state after 30 years, and a team spokesman said the Dolphins will end up contributing 70 percent of the renovation costs. “How the team does it really doesn’t matter,’’ spokesman Eric Jotkoff said in a statement Tuesday night.

Some of the dollar amounts were outlined in a summary Gimenez sent commissioners Tuesday night, though the full paperwork to finalize the plan has not been released. Among the new tidbits:

Ross would have to pay the county $20 million if he sells the team in the next five years. The Dolphins would also sign a 30-year agreement not to leave Miami-Dade.

• The Dolphins would follow the county’s small-business hiring standards and have as an “aspirational goal” to hire at least half of its construction workers from Miami-Dade, with 5 percent from Miami Gardens, home of the stadium.

• The Dolphins would reimburse Miami-Dade for the referendum, expected to cost $4.8 million, and for the costs incurred for hiring outside consultants to advise Miami-Dade on the deal, estimated at $50,000.

An outline of the NFL’s so-called G4 financing was not included in the Gimenez summary, but mentioned in the attached PFM report. Since the Dolphins can pay back the NFL loan with revenue that would otherwise go to the league, the financing would be “cash flow neutral” to the team, PFM added, while noting it had not received information directly from the team on potential loans.

Since launching the public push for government dollars for a stadium renovation in January, Dolphins executives have declined to talk about NFL loans, saying it was too early to say how much money might be available.

County officials say their main concern in talks was to reduce the share of public dollars in the deal, regardless of the source of the private dollars.

And there’s risk for the Dolphins: Should the stadium revenue fall short, the team must pay back the NFL loan themselves. Two county consultants concluded the stadium and team do not generate enough profit to fund the renovations alone.

Gimenez endorsed a plan late Monday to provide the Dolphins with about $7.5 million a year to help fund the renovation, if county voters approve raising mainland hotel taxes to 7 percent from 6 percent. At a special meeting at noon Wednesday, commissioners will vote to set a May 14 countywide referendum, and to approve the deal pending voter ratification.

Commissioners received Gimenez’s memo around 8 p.m. They had even shorter time four years ago to examine the deal that build the new Miami Marlins ballpark.

The Dolphins plan is smaller and far less complicated, and commissioners did receive a one-page summary of the general terms Tuesday afternoon. Gimenez also met individually with a majority of commissioners to brief them.

Gimenez — a leading Marlins deal critic — had said last week that he hoped to give commissioners two days to digest the documents. He reiterated Monday that the board should have a day to study it. But the documents were tied up with lawyers Tuesday.

The referendum would take place a week before NFL owners meet to award the 50th and 51st Super Bowls. The Dolphins would not receive county money if one of the games is not awarded to the stadium.

Also among the deal terms:

• The Dolphins would receive 75 percent of the new hotel-tax revenue, up to $7.5 million in Year One, for 26 years. The cap would increase by 3 percent each year.

At the end of 30 years, the Dolphins would refund the county its share — at least $112 million.

• The Dolphins would be on the hook for up to $120 million in penalties if they fail to bring in major events over the next three decades, including four Super Bowls or World Cup soccer finals, four college football championships and 20 international soccer matches.

•  The team would be rewarded for any additional Super Bowls. And key Super Bowl events would all be hosted in Miami-Dade and not in Broward County — a big change from previous South Florida games.

No referendum would take place if Dolphins-backed legislation allowing the county to raise the hotel tax and giving the team a sales-tax subsidy fails to pass the state Legislature before the annual lawmaking session ends May 3. The Florida House and Senate have two very different blueprints for how any tax break should be structured.

The Senate wants the state’s sports teams to compete for a pot of tax dollars, with the money going only to those who can prove the money will boost economic development. The House plan more closely mirrors the Dolphins’ original proposal: an additional $3 million annual sales-tax subsidy to last 30 years.

Any legislation would go to Gov. Rick Scott, who continued to sound warm to the proposal Tuesday when he visited Miami.

“I like the fact that the Dolphins are putting a lot of [the club’s] money up,” he said. “I like the fact they’re committing to stay. I like the fact that there’s a referendum.”

Miami Herald staff writers Marc Caputo and Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report.

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