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The Dolphins yesterday announced “a new concession aimed at boosting support” for the team’s proposed renovations to Sun Life Stadium, according to Olorunnipa & Beasley of the MIAMI HERALD. The team announced that it would be “willing to repay" $47M in state tax rebates after 2043. It is the “latest in a series of concessions" made by the Dolphins, who are seeking taxpayer help "despite the political uproar over publicly-financed stadiums in South Florida.” The Dolphins have “agreed to keep the team in South Florida for three decades, snag at least one Super Bowl by 2017, allow Miami-Dade voters to decide on whether to raise hotel taxes and, possibly, cover the cost of that referendum vote.” The team in total "pledged to pay back" about $167M, including $120M to Miami-Dade County and $47M to the state. That amount covers “much of the upfront costs, but not necessarily the cost of interest and inflation, which could be substantial.” The Dolphins are “hoping Miami-Dade County will raise the mainland hotel tax" from 6% to 7% to help finance their estimated $389M renovations. The team "needs voters to approve the hotel tax in a referendum, and the county must notify the public of a special election 30 days before it takes place." For a May 14 referendum -- which is "likely the latest it could occur to influence the NFL’s 50th and 51st Super Bowls award announcement on May 22 -- that notice must occur within the next three weeks." Florida state Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, who sponsored the bill, and Dolphins CEO Mike Dee “both acknowledged time is a concern," but they were “confident a deal could still be done" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/28). Dee “further defended the team's stance on what amounts to no-interest loans by saying it has never been done before” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/28).
A FISH STORY: Dolphins CEO Mike Dee yesterday confirmed the team's new logo is the image that has been circulating online for several weeks. In Miami, Adam Beasley notes the new logo yesterday "got the thumbs-up from two respected voices: Don Shula and Dan Marino." Shula wrote on his Twitter feed, "Glad to see new logo has all the same colors from our great 70's & 80's teams. A new look for a new era." Marino wrote on his feed, "Saw the new Fins logo. Followed the development stage & now its great to see the finished product" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/28). CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish said, “I like it. Typically when you see an old logo, an old famous logo, sort of being pushed to the side in favor of something new, we’ve seen franchise after franchise screw this up.” CBS Sports Network's Allie LaForce said, “What I like about it is it doesn’t look as cartoony. The first one looks like something straight out of a children’s cartoon.” Parrish: “And if you have to pay all these free agent contracts, what’s the best way to do it, or one of the best ways to do it? Create new merchandise that everybody has to buy. Smart business practice here” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 3/27). NBC Sports Network's Erik Kuselias noted the old Dolphins logo had a “helmet and an 'M,'” while the new logo “looks like a Dolphin and a jet had an offspring.” Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio said he was “always going with the logo worn by the team that went 17-0. Why would you change it?” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 3/27).
ATP/WTA Sony Open organizers yesterday said that they “hope to begin upgrading the Crandon Park Tennis Center in a year," after the venue's $50M renovations were approved by voters in November, according to Patricia Mazzei of the MIAMI HERALD. The tournament and Miami-Dade County first will “have to come to terms over the renovations for the county-owned park,” and those discussions have “yet to begin.” Organizers said that they “would like to begin the first phase of construction on April 1, 2014.” IMG Senior VP Adam Barrett, whose company runs the tournament, said that among the “first improvements would be multistory stadium additions and permanent courtside grandstands.” The first phase would “have to be completed before the annual tournament begins the following year, in March 2015.” The renovations would be “financed by private Sony Open funds and tennis center and tournament revenues -- ticket surcharges and parking fees -- without a reduction to the event’s payments to the county.” Organizers said that Miami-Dade would have to issue $50M in bonds that "would be paid off with tournament dollars, without the county being on the hook.” Meanwhile, a critic of the proposal has "sued to halt the plans" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/28). The plans include “three new stadiums, upgrading the current stadium and adding an acre of green space.” The new stadiums “would seat 3,000 to 6,000” each (AP, 3/27).
UNLV yesterday "made a radical move" in its bid to complete the 60,000-seat UNLV Now stadium project by "dumping its deep-pocket private partner, Majestic Realty," according to a front-page piece by Alan Snel of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. UNLV's decision "came as a major surprise," as Majestic had committed $360M to the estimated $800-900M project. UNLV College of Hotel Administration Dean and UNLV Now project head Don Snyder said that the school "needed to drop Majestic because the private developer made it too difficult to win support from the Las Vegas resort industry." Snyder: "Having a third party was going to be a challenge. Having a private developer in the middle created confusion and angst for the stakeholders as far as what they would get out of the deal." He added UNLV will have "more flexibility in regard to financing" the project with Majestic not involved. Snel reports Majestic will be "out of the mix effective May 27." Silverton Casino President and Majestic point man Craig Cavileer said, "We’re disappointed that we won’t be side-by-side in pursuing this project, and we’re perplexed at the rationale. We have not received an answer" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/28). In Las Vegas, Paul Takahashi notes the announcement ends a "nearly three-year exclusive partnership." Snyder said that there were "concerns from the Strip resort industry about Majestic's role in the project, especially over how much the company ... stood to gain from its exclusive partnership with the university." He added that by dropping Majestic, the school "hoped to garner support from the wider resort community." Snyder said that the stadium will "remain a public-private partnership, but the private partner will be the resort industry, in general" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 3/28).
MGM GOING GRAND? In Las Vegas, Norm Clarke noted MGM Resorts Chair & CEO Jim Murren this week spoke "at length" about his company's planned basketball arena for the "first time since it was announced four weeks ago." Murren "acknowledged he 'struggled' with the arena issue for a decade before taking the plunge." He said, "We were trying to find the right location, the right partners, the right time. I think we've accomplished these objectives." Clarke noted if the new arena's capacity exceeds 22,700 it would "give Las Vegas the largest basketball arena in the West." Only the 34,616-seat Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., and the 23,500-seat Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., "would be larger." Murren said that the business model "is not predicated on having either a professional sports team or a college tournament" (REVIEWJOURNAL.com, 3/27).
Brazil's preparations for the '14 World Cup and the '16 Olympic Games "ran into more trouble yesterday" when authorities closed Estádio Olímpico João Havelange because of "structural problems with its roof," according to Dom Phillips of the LONDON TIMES. Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes said that the stadium would "be closed indefinitely." He added that the problems "represented a risk for fans," and the stadium would "remain closed until it was given the all clear." Officials said that the stadium would "not now be used for the Confederations Cup in June or for the 2014 World Cup, and Botafago and other Rio clubs were looking for alternative venues." The stadium opened in '07 for the Pan Am Games and "was considered the most modern sporting venue in Latin America" (LONDON TIMES, 3/28). Meanwhile, in London, Scott-Elliot & Sandy write England's men's national soccer team is "due to play Brazil in the refurbished Maracana Stadium in Rio on 2 June but it is still undergoing major building work and is unlikely to meet its 27 April completion deadline." Reports in Rio suggest that it "will not be finished" until May 25. FIFA is due to "take over the Maracana" on May 27 for the Confederations Cup. The April deadline was "supposed to allow time to stage a test event before England arrive and any delay into May will raise questions over whether an adequate test can be conducted." If completion is delayed, the England game "may have to be used as one of the test events in front of a reduced capacity crowd." The Maracana's US$571M upgrade was "supposed to be finished before Christmas but has fallen further and further behind schedule." The Olympic Stadium would have "offered an ideal fall-back if the Maracana is not ready" (London INDEPENDENT, 3/28).
In L.A., Catherine Saillant reports city officials yesterday agreed to "pursue a parallel track" for redeveloping the Convention Center in the event that AEG and the NFL "fail to reach agreement on the Farmer’s Field stadium downtown." L.A. City Council member Jan Perry said that she "remains hopeful that the city can continue to work with the entertainment giant in both drawing an NFL franchise and building the stadium in the L.A. Live area" (L.A. TIMES, 3/28). Perry proposed that the city "look into revising" its agreement with AEG. An L.A. City Council committee instructed staff to "come back in 30 days with ideas for financing a renovation of the Convention Center in the event the proposed football stadium falls through" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/28).
CAT SCRATCH FEVER: In Charlotte, Jim Morrill notes the North Carolina House "passed a bill that would allow the city to use taxes, now earmarked for the Charlotte Convention Center," toward renovating Bank of America Stadium. The bill now goes to the state Senate, and city officials are "confident the measure will persuade the team to stay in Charlotte." The taxes "would generate" around $110M of the city's original $144M deal with the Panthers, a "so-called 'tether' tying the team to Charlotte for 15 years" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/28).
SUN DEVIL ALSO RISES: In Phoenix, Jeff Metcalfe noted the '16 season is "the soonest" the Arizona State Univ. football team will be playing in a new Sun Devil Stadium. ASU AD & VP/Athletics Steve Patterson yesterday said that a "financing plan while not final is starting to come together and if 'a few political decisions' go ASU's way between now and the end of the school year that a timetable could be set under which" ASU would play at another stadium in '15 before returning in '16 (AZCENTRAL.com, 3/27).