Just nine months after trying—and failing—to get nearly $400 million in taxpayer dollars to pay for renovations to Sun Life Stadium, word comes out of Miami that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is willing to pay for the majority of the upgrades himself. This should be remembered every time a team tries to hold its city or county hostage for a new stadium: If you stand firm, the team will blink first.
The new plan isn't quite cost-free to the area. According to the Herald, Ross and Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez met two weeks ago to discuss a deal that would see the Dolphins privately fund a renovation in exchange for not paying property taxes on Sun Life Stadium. That's not insignificant: The figure was about $3.8 million last year, so over the proposed 30-year life of the upgraded stadium that would amount to $114 million. That's far from the $379 million in taxes and rebates that Ross was initially seeking.
It was not surprising that plans for publicly funded stadium upgrades died in South Florida, which got burned by the Marlins in the scam to end all scams. But other locales continue to fall for the same bit, even in places like Detroit—where the Red Wings would never, ever leave. It's inexplicable why local politicians keep giving weight to phantom economic benefit studies, and gift franchises everything they're looking for without at least negotiating. And yes, saying "no" is negotiating, and will tend to lead to a deal that's at least a little more palatable.