Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is coming to Miami in 2020, but taxpayers are being billed already

DeSantis talks about mitigating environmental damage that Super Bowl LIV may cause

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis joined the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee to speak about Super Bowl LIV at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center in Key Biscayne, Florida, on April 22, 2019, and find ways to mitigate environmental damage.
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis joined the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee to speak about Super Bowl LIV at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center in Key Biscayne, Florida, on April 22, 2019, and find ways to mitigate environmental damage.

When the National Football League brings the Super Bowl to the Miami area next year, it plans to leave a “legacy” project of two new artificial-turf football fields in a pair of county parks.

But the NFL won’t be covering most of the cost: An estimate from the Parks Department has taxpayers contributing more than $2 million toward the $3 million price tag for the two fields, with the NFL donating about $850,000.

Miami-Dade fought to bring a record-breaking 11th Super Bowl to the Miami area, and now the bills are starting to come due. The NFL asks host communities to cover millions of dollars of game-day expense and to help subsidize the festivities.

The latest tally has the county spending about $10 million on the game. But thanks to a stadium deal struck with the Miami Dolphins in 2014, the county must also pay $4 million to the Miami Dolphins as a bonus for snagging a Super Bowl at Hard Rock.

The $10 million for the Super Bowl itself includes cash payments to fund game preparations, the costs of deploying police officers and paramedics to Hard Rock and to other Super Bowl events, and the expense of the upgraded youth football fields slated to be part of the NFL’s pregame goodwill blitz for Miami.

Miami-Dade’s Big Game expenses capture the leverage the Super Bowl enjoys as it moves from city to city each year, with local governments subsidizing the costs of America’s most popular television event.

For years, cities have publicly competed to host the championship game, and the NFL demands a string of concessions and subsidies from the winning location.

Rodney Barreto, chairman of Miami-Dade’s Super Bowl Host Committee, is the leader of the organizing effort for the 2020 game. Miami

The league touts the game as an economic and marketing windfall for the host city, given the flood of business for hotels and restaurants and the media coverage that surrounds the Super Bowl, and the taxes that local governments collect from the added business.

“Could we really buy that type of advertising? I know Miami Gardens couldn’t,” said Oliver Gilbert, mayor of Miami Gardens and a candidate for County Commission in 2020. “You’re having people stay in our hotel rooms, fly into our airports, and eat in our restaurants. You’re also investing in showcasing how nice Miami is at a time when everywhere else is cold.”

Miami Gardens beat out Tampa during a 2016 vote by the NFL’s millionaire and billionaire owners.

The Super Bowl arrives near the peak of South Florida’s vacation season, so the game doesn’t bring the kind of tourism spike it can for other NFL cities with anemic winter visitation. But hotel rates do surge for Super Bowl weekend across Miami.

The last time the Super Bowl was in Miami Gardens, in 2010, organizers commissioned a study that found roughly $141 million in direct spending in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach from the game. That’s still a small part of South Florida’s massive economy. Spending across Miami-Dade alone during February 2010, the month of the game, topped $8 billion, according to state sales tax figures.

Miami-Dade cited the economic help a Super Bowl can bring when it approved a stadium deal with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross in 2014. The agreement awards the Dolphins a bonus of up to $5.75 million from the county each year in exchange for landing large special events at Hard Rock.

The bonus system was contingent on a privately financed renovation of Hard Rock, which the team says cost more than $500 million. The highest amount for a single event available to the Dolphins under the 30-year deal is $4 million, for a Super Bowl or a World Cup championship played at the stadium. Miami-Dade has opted to delay making payments until 2024, a concession the Dolphins agreed to in the original deal.

Roger Daltrey, left, and Pete Townshend of The Who perform during a press conference at the Super Bowl XLIV media center on Feb. 4, 2010, in Fort Lauderdale. The band performed during halftime at the Super Bowl the last time the game was in the Miami area. J. David Ake AP

Rodney Barreto, chairman of the 2020 Super Bowl Host Committee, said government backing of the Super Bowl gives Miami an enviable marketing platform, particularly since the game’s audience last tuned in to a South Florida setting a decade ago.

“In 2010, we didn’t have Uber or Lyft. There wasn’t a tunnel. There wasn’t a Brightline train. There wasn’t Museum Park,” said Barreto, a county lobbyist whose Coral Gables firm, Floridian Partners, represents the Dolphins. “The list goes on and on. Miami’s got a really unique opportunity to really tell a great story.”

Miami-Dade began paying for the 2020 Super Bowl last year, when it gave the Host Committee $1 million. It’s part of a $4 million cash commitment, with another $2 million arriving this year and the final $1 million payment coming in 2020, according to a May 7 memo from Mayor Carlos Gimenez. That’s on top of the $4.5 million in labor the county government is providing the Super Bowl for free, mostly in off-duty police hours.

The Gimenez memo shows the county plans to provide the Super Bowl about $3.2 million worth of police services. The Dolphins, Marlins and other teams are required to pay local governments for game-day police and paramedic services at their stadiums, but the NFL receives free public-safety coverage.

Miami-Dade said it expects to budget about $330,000 next year for free fire and rescue service for the Super Bowl. Another $280,000 covers two county executives, Felipe Angulo and Rashad Thomas, that Gimenez’s office has loaned to the Super Bowl committee’s staff.

For the football fields at county parks, Miami-Dade is paying about $2.15 million for new artificial turf at Gwen Cherry Park in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood and at Goulds Park in South Dade. The NFL is contributing two grants worth $850,000, according to the Gimenez memo. County commissioners on Tuesday approved the $3 million for parks projects funded with county and NFL dollars, along with the donated payroll costs for county employees.

Victoria Galan, spokeswoman for the Parks Department, said the NFL money is similar to a matching grant that’s allowing the county to complete the field projects.

Dick Anderson, a former Dolphins player who until recently was president of the Parks Department’s fundraising arm, said an $850,000 gift would make the NFL a major donor in any year.

“It’s a big number,” said Anderson, who was chairman of Miami’s Super Bowl host committee in 1989. “Without the Super Bowl being here, those projects wouldn’t take place.”