SBD/March 11, 2014/Facilities

Who's The Ross? Dolphins Owner Offers To Pay For Sun Life Stadium Renovations

Ross thinks the upgrades will aid South Florida's effort to land a Super Bowl
The Dolphins "want to stop paying property taxes for Sun Life Stadium in exchange for privately funding" a $350M renovation, a deal that would "put South Florida in the running again for Super Bowls," according to sources cited in a front-page piece by Douglas Hanks of the MIAMI HERALD. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross "agreed to complete the renovations, then turn over the stadium to county ownership and start reaping the tax savings once the project was completed." Hanks notes the talks mark the "first concrete sign that the Dolphins have not let up in their push for a renovated Sun Life after a bitter defeat last year in Tallahassee." Under the proposal, Sun Life Stadium would "revert to county ownership and be free of property taxes, in the same way that the county-owned" Marlins Park and AmericanAirlines Arena are government facilities and "exempt from taxation." Gimenez said that he "wants the team to find a way for the arrangement to not dent the budgets of the school board or Miami Gardens, where Sun Life Stadium is the city’s top taxpayer." Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel yesterday suggested the team would "find a way to protect Miami Gardens from taking a financial hit in the ownership swap of Sun Life" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/11). The AP's Steven Wine noted renovations would include a "partial canopy to shade seats that are now exposed, installing new seats and moving others closer to the field, and upgrading the club level." South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee Chair Rodney Barreto "applauded Ross' change of heart." He said that Ross' "request for property tax relief was reasonable." Barreto: "This puts us back into contention, no doubt" (AP, 3/10).

BACK IN THE BIG GAME? In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib notes Ross and the South Florida bid committee were "disappointed when during a 10-minute span, owners awarded the 50th Super Bowl, in 2016, to the San Francisco Bay Area over Miami, then granted the 2017 game to Houston, again over Miami." Both votes were "via super majority, meaning Sun Life Stadium, which opened in 1987, was deemed so unfit for a Super Bowl it could not muster even nine of 32 votes." Dolphins radio play-by-play man Jimmy Cefalo said, "The NFL, I think, was very clear that they would not award us a Super Bowl without improvements to the stadium" (PALM BEACH POST, 3/11). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde notes South Florida has "hosted a record-tying 10 Super Bowls ... but is now assured of going at least nine years without one (2010 was the most recent)." The "longest hosting gap was 10 years, from 1979-89, after the Orange Bowl was deemed no longer a viable venue" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/11). In Miami, Greg Cote writes Ross' decision to pay for the renovations "is a goodwill gesture that will help ... repair the public image of a franchise in dire need of that" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/11).
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