SBD/March 12, 2014/Facilities

Stephen Ross' New Plan For Sun Life Stadium Greeted By Mixed Reactions

Ross wants to privately fund a $350M renovation for the factility
The new Sun Life Stadium upgrade plan by Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross "scrambled the political scorecard" yesterday as a "bitter foe sounded supportive and past allies questioned the team’s pursuit of relief from property taxes," according to Douglas Hanks of the MIAMI HERALD. Ross wants to privately fund a $350M renovation that he had "tried to finance with county hotel taxes since buying the team" in '09. In exchange, Miami-Dade County would "take ownership of Sun Life Stadium and free the team of a property-tax bill" that last year hit $3.8M. Former Eagles Owner Norman Braman, who helped defeat Ross' previous hotel tax bid, said, "I think it's a step in the right direction. It's a hell of an improvement over last year." Hanks notes Ross' "request to stop paying taxes ... has some key past supporters questioning the new option." Miami-Dade County Commission Chair Rebeca Sosa said, "If they don't want to pay taxes -- in a year when we're balancing the libraries and fire-rescue budget -- they won't count on my support." A "mantra of the Dolphins’ political boosters last year was that hotel revenues would bring a renovation 'at no cost to local taxpayers.'" Now Ross must "contend with an itemized tax bill for Sun Life that breaks down some specific government functions the facility funds: $70,000 for child services, $24,000 for libraries, $350,000 for fire and rescue operations," and $1.3M for schools. County Commissioner Juan Zapata said, "I'm not very sold on the deal. It sounds good in concept, maybe, but at the end of the day this is going to impact taxpayers directly. The previous attempt was just going to affect tourists." Dolphins execs "scrambled Monday as news of the proposed deal broke," and have "pitched Ross' latest offer as a major concession" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/12).

SUPER-SIZED: Ross in a statement said, "We haven’t won a Super Bowl bid in Miami-Dade in far too long, and we know that with the stadium as an issue, we never will unless it is modernized. The Super Bowl Committee will have to decide if they want to compete for the next two Super Bowls so time is of the essence. It is time to move forward.” In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis notes the Marlins, Heat and NHL Panthers, "as well as other franchises in the state, play in government-owned facilities, exempting them from paying property tax." Ross’ statement did "not address how the Miami-Dade School Board or the city of Miami Gardens would be compensated for lost tax revenue" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/12).
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