Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross touts benefits of Sun Life Stadium renovations

A rendering of what Sun Life Stadium will look like once the first phase of upgrades are completed.
A rendering of what Sun Life Stadium will look like once the first phase of upgrades are completed. MIAMI DOLPHINS

Eight home Dolphins games. Six or seven more for the Miami Hurricanes.

Mega-concerts that draw 65,000 people. A Las Vegas-style artist residency, with exclusive concerts performed in a new parking-lot amphitheater.

Three to five Super Bowls in the next two decades. The College Football Playoff National Championship.

And if all goes right, a World Cup quarterfinal — at least — in 2026.

That was the vision Stephen Ross had when he pledged some $350million in private funds to renovate his crumbling stadium. And those are the results he expects when the two-year rehab job is done by the summer of 2016.

That was the franchise’s confident message on Friday, when Ross invited allies in state and local government, his football brain trust and members of the South Florida media to tour the Dolphins’ home field.

“Miami is certainly one of the most aspirational cities in the world,” Ross said. “... I’ve always said it needed a first-class stadium.”

Added Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, one of several elected officials to attend the ceremony: “Today is a great day in the history of Miami-Dade County.”

During the half-hour presentation, the Dolphins showed eye-popping renderings of what will be.

For now, however, the stadium — which the team hopes will have a new name for the start of the 2016 season — looks like a full-blown construction site. Contractors began ripping out the stadium’s 76,000 seats last week.

By August, a new seating bowl will be in place, with capacity down by about 14 percent. But what the stadium will lose in quantity, the team says it will make up in quality. The new setup will have more seats on the lower level, and the stands will be 24 feet closer to the field.

The Dolphins are calling that Phase I of the construction plan. Phase II will bring changes even more stark. The long-awaited canopy — which will provide shade to more than 90 percent in attendance — and four giant HD video boards will go in then.

And Ross, the billionaire real estate developer, is using a sizable chunk of his vast wealth to make it happen.

“He’s changed landscapes,” team president Tom Garfinkel said. “Now he’s changing ours in South Florida.”

Change takes time.

Friday was more about recognizing those who helped get this long-negotiated deal done as it was what will come next.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, who co-sponsored the stadium’s funding plan, and Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert were among the event’s attendees.

As was Gimenez, who negotiated the deal in which Miami-Dade will pay up to $5 million a year out of hotel taxes for bonuses tied to hosting major sporting events at the renovated stadium for 20 years.

A Super Bowl qualifies for $4 million, and Miami-Dade will pay $750,000 per international soccer match that sells at least 55,000 tickets.

“Miami-Dade County is known as a big-ticket-event destination,” Gimenez said Friday. Unless “renovations were made to Sun Life Stadium, Miami-Dade County would lose the opportunity to attract major sporting events.”

In his remarks, he emphasized Sun Life will only be eligible for hotel-tax money.

“No general fund money will ever be at risk under this agreement,” he said.

But hotel-tax expenses can still put a strain on the county’s budget. This year, Gimenez tapped $1.4million in hotel taxes to close a budget gap in the county’s police department, and has used the tourist-generated money to close a $25million hole in the county’s general budget.

The Dolphins deal includes a provision that lets Miami-Dade scrap payments if hotel taxes fall short of funding a long list of current needs, including museum subsidies and debt payments for Marlins Park.

As for the Dolphins, they appeared confident Friday that once construction is complete, they’ll have no problem winning the rights to some of the biggest events in not just the country, but also the world.

Once part of the NFL’s regular Super Bowl rotation, the title game has not been held in South Florida since 2010 — despite the franchise’s better efforts. South Florida’s recent failed bids have been blamed on the stadium’s condition. Come 2016, that will no longer be an excuse.

Ross said the local host committee will make an aggressive bid for the 2019 game, and hopes to again host the game every four to seven years.

And although the stadium will continue to host world-class soccer — including, Garfinkel hopes, someday a World Cup elimination match — David Beckham’s nascent Major League Soccer franchise is clearly not an option.

“This is way too large for a soccer stadium in Miami,” Ross said. “I think we could dress it down, but I think they have their heart set on downtown Miami, if, in fact, it ever happens.”

Ross added: “I think we’ll really serve South Florida with the really great soccer games that I think they’re looking to see, which I think are far superior to anything the Major League Soccer can deliver.”

Miami Herald reporter Douglas Hanks contributed to this report.

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