SBD/April 10, 2013/Facilities

NFL Could Contribute $150M For Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium Renovations

Owner Stephen Ross has committed $191M to the Sun Life Stadium project
The NFL could contribute $150M toward the Dolphins’ proposed stadium renovation, "lowering the direct costs to the team for the estimated" $350M project, according to a Miami-Dade County report cited by Mazzei & Hanks of the MIAMI HERALD. 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.” The NFL’s contribution “had been one of the last remaining questions” as county commissioners meet today to consider a deal between the Dolphins and Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who want to ask voters to raise hotel taxes to upgrade Sun Life Stadium. 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 report yesterday on the proposed stadium financing deal “prepared for the county" by a consultancy firm notes the Dolphins would "likely qualify" for $150M in NFL financing. That would leave the Dolphins to raise another $41M to reach the $191M in "private dollars" Owner Stephen Ross has committed to the project. A team spokesperson said when adding in “about $170 million in rebates the Dolphins will pay the county and state after 30 years," the franchise "will end up contributing 70 percent of the renovation costs.” Gimenez outlined some of the dollar amounts in a summary sent to commissioners last night. It included that Ross would have to pay the county $20M "if he sells the team in the next five years." Dolphins execs have “declined to talk about NFL loans” since launching the “public push for government dollars for a stadium renovation in January.” Team officials said that it was “too early to say how much money might be available” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/10). In Miami, Patricia Mazzei reports the Dolphins “can use the hotel-tax revenue" to finance at least $112M but "no more than" $120M toward the renovation. The county projected that the Dolphins will receive some $289M "in hotel taxes over 26 years" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 4/10).

GAINING FAVOR: In Miami, Toluse Olorunnipa reports lawmakers in the Tallahassee “have to change state law before the deal can proceed.” The “biggest divide is not between the Dolphins and their potential governmental benefactors,” rather it is between the “Florida House and Senate, which have two very different blueprints for how the tax break should be structured.” The Senate “wants the state’s sports teams to compete each year 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" -- up to $90M in "guaranteed tax breaks specifically carved out for the Dolphins and the opportunity to raise millions more through local hotel taxes, if voters approve” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/10). A MIAMI HERALD poll shows 69% (666) of voters are for the plan to use tax dollars to help fund improvements to Sun Life Stadium, 29% (281) are against the idea and 2% (23) were undecided (MIAMIHERALD.com, 4/10).

APPLES TO ORANGES? Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said of the comparisons of the team asking for public funding and the Marlins' recent publicly funded ballpark, the “sound bite war against those who oppose us is difficult because it’s easy to say ‘Marlins II’ or ‘welfare for rich people,’ we hear it every day. But the thoughtful discussion when you take a step back and look at the facts … we will bat a thousand in converting people.” Dee added, “We just got to get that message out and explain it in a way that folks know this isn’t about just a free ride. This is a true partnership.” This deal “keeps the Dolphins stable and solid playing in Miami for the next three generations” (“Joe Rose Morning Show,” WQAM-AM, 4/9).
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