We called this one a couple of months ago, but the Dolphins and owner Stephen Ross made it official today—they want to make $400 million worth of renovations to Sun Life Stadium, and they want state and local governments to pay for some, possibly most of it.
Sun Life is old and Roger Goodell says it needs work if it wants to host Super Bowls and the Dolphins own the stadium, so they're not tied down by a lease if they want to move to Los Angeles or London. There are lots of good reasons to fix the place up, put a canopy roof on it, rearrange the seating. Are those reasons good enough for Miami and Miami-Dade County to chip in while still paying for Marlins Park for the next 36 years?
The Dolphins are holding a press conference today to announce plans for the renovation (that's a rendering above), and they probably won't get into money specifics. Ross will supposedly pledge to cover a "significant" portion of the $400 million pricetag. What's significant? Somewhere between 40 and 50 percent.
That's much better than the deal the Marlins received—Jeffrey Loria only had to pay 15-20 percent of the costs for Marlins Park. (In their press conference, they will hint at that scam by calling themselves "a different kind of fish.") Another difference is where the tax money would come from. Preliminary reports indicate the Dolphins will ask the county to raise hotel taxes by one percent, bringing in an extra $10 million a year. That burden would fall on tourists rather than locals, so it's a lot more palatable for local politicians to bring to a vote.
But there's the matter of the sales tax rebate. The Dolphins already receive an annual $2 million sales tax refund from Florida, as part of a statewide subsidy for professional sports teams. The Herald reports that they plan to ask the state to double that subsidy, so the Dolphins would get $4 million a year from a general fund that Florida uses to pay teachers, police, etc. That's the kind of thing that could run afoul of once-bitten voters who have repeatedly indicated they don't want to devote any more public funding to local sports teams. But South Floridians should just send their eyes north, to where New York and Erie County will pay for 84 percent of stadium renovations for the Bills, and realize a few million a year may not be the worst deal in the world.