Dolphins Agree to Voter Referendum on Stadium Renovation Funding

Chris Trotman

According to a Sun Sentinel Report, the Miami Dolphins have agreed to a voter referendum in Miami-Dade County over the team's plans for public funding to renovate Sun Life Stadium. The Dolphins are attempting to receive $199 million in public funds to assist in upgrading several aspects of the stadium, and hope to have everything in place before the NFL's Owners' Meeting in May determines the host site for Super Bowl L.

The Miami Dolphins have agreed to take their proposed public funding request to the residents of Miami-Dade County in a voter referendum, according to Craig Davis from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The Dolphins are asking for $199 million in public funding to assist in the upgrades the team says are necessary for the 26 year old stadium to remain competitive for future Super Bowls and NCAA Championship games. The total renovations are expected to cost $400 million, with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross paying at least $201 million.

Previously, the Dolphins had resisted attempts to bring the voters of Miami-Dade into the approval process for the public funding, feeling there was not enough time to educate the public, organize a vote on the referendum, and get the results ahead of the May 22nd NFL Owners' Meeting. In that meeting, the league will award Super Bowl L and LI to two cites. Super Bowl L, the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, will either go to the new San Francisco 49ers stadium in Santa Clara, California, or to Sun Life Stadium. Whichever site is not awarded that game will then bid against the Houston Texans' Reliant Stadium for Super Bowl LI.

Currently, the Dolphins have legislation processing through the state capitol in Tallahassee, for the public funding. The plan asks for the state to approve a $3 million per year rebate from state sales tax generated within Sun Life Stadium for 20 years, as well as a one cent hike in the hotel tax, also known as the "bed tax." The bill, which has already been approved by one committee in the State Senate, will be amended to include the required county referendum for final approval.

"We're saying let the people make the decision, and we think people in the legislature will support that view point," a Dolphins source told Davis. "We're trying to do it in a different way [than the Miami Marlins]. We said we would do things in a transparent fashion that makes sense to the community."

The Dolphins' toughest opposition for the public funding will come from the 2009 approval of public funding to build Marlins Park for the Miami Marlins. The baseball team agreed to increase their payroll, and their competitiveness, if the stadium was built. This past season, their first in the new site, the Marlins began a fire-sale mid way through the season, and continued it after the year was over, selling off nearly every high dollar, big name player they had.

The deceptive practices of the Marlins have left a bad taste in many Miami-Dade residents' mouths. They don't want to again be asked to pay for a stadium after watching what the Marlins did. The Dolphins feel they can show the differences in the two situations, starting with the $201 million Ross has pledged to spend.

The Dolphins feel adding the referendum to the approval process will assist the legislation getting through a State Legislature not inclined to approve the spending without knowing how the citizens of the county feel. Even if the State approves the funding, it still requires county approval to implement the approved tax changes. Before the referendum, the Dolphins were asking the county commission to approve the increase.

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