Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez yesterday said that he "may require the NFL to award South Florida a Super Bowl as a condition for spending county hotel taxes on part of a $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium," according to Hanks & Mazzei of the MIAMI HERALD. Gimenez and the Dolphins announced that they have "agreed to let county voters decide whether to use local tax dollars for an upgrade of the team’s stadium and would rush a referendum to be held before the May meeting when NFL owners will award the 2016 and ’17 Super Bowls." Gimenez suggested that, even if the ballot item "passes, he may design the measure to grant county leaders the option of withholding the tax funds if NFL owners snub South Florida." The concept seemed to "bring a quick thumbs-down from the NFL" yesterday afternoon. Miami-Dade commissioners last month voted to "endorse the team’s financing plan, which relies on a new annual $3 million stadium subsidy from the state and raising the county’s mainland hotel taxes to 7 percent, from the current 6." The Dolphins need a "change in state law for both pools of public money." At least three county commissioners have "called for team owner Stephen Ross to pay for the special election, which Gimenez said would cost between $3 million and $4 million." Without a special election, the Dolphins "would have to wait until August 2014 to let voters endorse the stadium plan" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/12). Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said, "This is about Super Bowl 50. The biggest event, frankly, in NFL history." The AP's Steven Wine noted upgrades to the stadium "are expected to cost" about $400M. Ross has "agreed to pay at least 51 percent but might be forced to go higher." Gimenez said, "He started at 51. That's great. I don't believe we're going to end up at 51 percent" (AP, 2/11).
ROCK THE VOTE: In Ft. Lauderdale, Chris Perkins notes the special election is "an abrupt about-face for the Dolphins, who as recently as a month ago claimed there wouldn't be time to hold a public election on the stadium financing issue." Gimenez "changed the Dolphins' thinking." Dee said, "The mayor … gave us a pathway and showed us a plan as to how we could do that together and we embraced it." Neither the county government nor the Dolphins "know when the special election would be held." The Dolphins' finance plan "has to be approved by the mayor." He would then "take it to the Board of County Commissioners to get approval for an election." But the Dolphins and the county government "still have to convince voters this deal is different than Marlins Park" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/12).
The NFL Panthers' renovation plans for Bank of America Stadium include a “pair of top-of-line video boards, enhanced statistics on LED ribbon boards that encircle" the stadium and escalators to "transport fans to the upper deck," according to Joseph Person of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Design firm Populous estimated the "total cost" to be $261-297M. Panthers President Danny Morrison said that the renovations would be "done in stages," and that he "hopes work could begin" after the '13 season. He added that the Panthers "do not want monstrous video boards -- like those at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.” Morrison: “We’re not interested in putting in some overpowering video boards that don’t fit the classic design of the stadium.” The team also would spend $16M to "renovate the team store, ticket office and three entry gates" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/12). Morrison said that the renovations also will include "other technology upgrades, and improving club and suite areas." He added that the city of Charlotte’s plan to contribute $125M toward the renovation "started with a letter Mayor Anthony Foxx sent to the team last September," which led to "three months of private negotiations and debate." In Charlotte, Bethea & Morrill in a front-page piece write the negotiations between the Panthers and the city "evolved behind closed doors over the next three months." The team said that the meetings were private "because it was about an economic development matter, which North Carolina law allows to be negotiated in closed session." Foxx said, “I felt like we do in any situation where we have an existing business we want to keep, that we open conversations. ... I don’t think we just came to them and said 'We’d throw money at you.'" While the city last week announced a tentative $143.75M plan to help pay for renovations, the final details of the project "are still being worked out" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/12).
The Bears recently broke ground on a project to expand and upgrade their HQs at Halas Hall. The football center's weight room and training room, currently 7,000 square feet, will see an expansion of 1,500 square feet. The locker room will be upgraded with reconfigured lockers and new carpeting. Existing and newly created meeting rooms will feature enhanced technology. A new event center will be built off the south end of the existing building, including a 4,000-square foot broadcast studio and conference space that can host approximately 150 people for both events and original programming. A new press conference room and relocated media courtyard also will be a part of the facility along with increased work space for media members. Additionally, the team will incorporate a practice viewing suite to the second level of Halas Hall. The 40-person suite will overlook all four of the team’s practice fields and feature many of the amenities of game suites at Soldier Field (Bears). In Chicago, Dan Pompei notes the renovated Halas Hall will include "many new offices and 105 more parking spaces." The broadcast studio will "enable the Bears to expand their inventory." Among the possibilities are "a year-round radio show and more Bears-produced television offerings" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/12). Also in Chicago, Adam Jahns wrote, "There’s no denying that the Bears have outgrown their facility, which was built in 1997." The expansion project is "scheduled to conclude by Aug. 1, just before the team returns from training camp." The outdoor practice fields and the Walter Payton Center "will not be impacted by the project" (SUNTIMES.com, 2/11).
Indiana state lawmakers are “open to giving financial help to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in hopes of eventually getting more money in return,” according to Schneider & Campbell of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. State Sen. and State Appropriations Committee Chair Luke Kenley said the proposal to create a motor sports investment district around IMS is "a pretty good plan." The proposal would set aside up to $5M annually of the "tax revenue generated in the district for 20 years." The money would help IMS "pay off bonds" that would finance up to $100M in improvements, including “lights for evening events and changes to make the facility more handicap-accessible." Kenley said that the state “thinks it will get back, and then some, the tax revenues it foregoes, thanks to increased use of the facility.” Kenley: "I would expect that within five years, if they develop the Speedway the way they are talking about doing, so and having bigger and better and perhaps more events there, they are going to generate more activity, then we should start seeing some return." The bill will be "debated Thursday in Kenley's committee" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/11). In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin wrote IMS' “biggest project” might be “lights for the entire facility.” IMS officials “insist the Indianapolis 500 will remain an afternoon race, but lights could help when weather delays are a problem.” The NASCAR Sprint Cup Brickyard 400 would be a “candidate for a night race given the late-July heat, and the MotoGP race in August could benefit as well.” In addition to lighting for the track, there are “hundreds of places where additional lighting would be needed: Parking lots, concession stands, walkways, the garage area.” The cost of the entire project likely is “north of” $20M, and it “opens the facility to a host of different evening opportunities, such as concerts” (INDYSTAR.com, 2/11).