Miami has another outdated stadium that needs hundreds of millions of dollars worth of renovations. A politician instrumental in getting the Marlins taxpayer funding says the renovations are necessary. The Dolphins don't have the cash or the desire to pay for it. Guess who's left? Miami-Dade County residents, whose descendants will still be paying off the bonds for Marlins Park through 2049. Isn't sports fun?
Sun Life Stadium began life in 1987 as Joe Robbie Stadium, until Wayne Huizenga bought the Dolphins and sold the naming rights after Robbie died. It's not a wonderful place to watch football, being designed with soccer in mind. It's too big. The seats are far away from the field. It rains all the time. The sprinklers go off in the middle of games. But it's a perfectly functional NFL venue. What could possibly spur a cash-strapped city into deciding it needs major work?
Blame Roger Goodell. A few years back, the commissioner said Sun Life would need significant renovations if it wanted to continue to host Super Bowls and other major events. This, despite hosting a Super Bowl in 2010, and being one of the three stadiums shortlisted for the 2016 an 2017 games. This, despite hosting the BCS Title Game in six weeks. This, despite the stadium receiving $300 million worth of renovations over the last decade already. But Goodell's threat (and it was a threat) is working, and there's momentum building for the stadium to receive a makeover.
(We hope Florida politicians keep in mind that Roger Goodell is not an advocate for NFL cities or NFL fans. He is an advocate for NFL owners, entrusted to strengthen their investments, and nothing adds value to a franchise like a new or renovated stadium, regardless of who foots the bill.)
The Dolphins won't be picking up the tab. As of last year, they were still $230 million in debt from previous renovations, and sought to cover the costs of new work by pushing the county to raise hotel taxes. That was shot down, as Marlins Park backlash was in full swing. But people have short memories, and Miami-Dade County commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz yesterday acknowledged that the stadium's renovations are not a question of "if," but of "when" and "how."
Diaz, who strongly supported every bond measure to get the Marlins their new stadium, agrees that the Dolphins need to fix up their park in order to keep hosting big games. "It makes a big difference economically," he said, and once local politicians buys into the league's crap about renovations being a necessity and not a luxury, the battle is already lost.
"We have to look at all the variables involved. What would the citizens get for this? That's a question a lot of people, including myself, have put up."
While Diaz hasn't committed to seeking public funding, he's skipped the part where we're supposed to debate whether Sun Life requires sprucing up at all. Taking that as a given—and owner Stephen Ross's refusal to put any more money into it—we're left with the inevitable: Taxpayers' money going toward stadium renovations they neither want nor need. Earlier this year, Ross offered specific details of the proposal, while declining to mention who would be paying for it. The plan would add a canopy to keep out the rain, upgrade the lights and scoreboard, and remove about 10,000 seats. The bill has been estimated at $220 million. Start saving up now, Miami.