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Dolphins Looking to Set Referendum Date, County Not Sure

The Miami Dolphins are looking to conduct major renovations to Sun Life Stadium in hopes of landing Super Bowl L, the 50th anniversary of the NFL's Championship game, in 2016. The team has asked for $199 million in public funding, and want to have a decision before the NFL owners meet in May.

Streeter Lecka

The Miami Dolphins are looking to conduct major stadium renovations, including adding a canopy over the seating areas of Sun Life Stadium and moving the seats closer to the field, while trying to lure Super Bowl L, the 2016 50th anniversary celebration of the NFL's championship game. But, to complete the upgrades, the team is asking for $199 million in public funding to be added to the $201 million promised by owner Stephen Ross.

Miami-Dade County and the Dolphins recently agreed to hold a public referendum on the proposed public funding, which would come from a $3 million per year sales tax rebate from items sold within Sun Life Stadium over the next 30 years, as well as a one-cent increase in the hotel, or "bed" tax.

The Dolphins, who were initially against the public referendum, saying it could not be completed prior to the NFL Owners Meeting May 22, when the host of Super Bowls L and LI will be determined, are now hoping to lock in the date of the vote. The team is pushing for a May 14 referendum, according to a Miami Herald report.

However, the county does not seem quite as ready to move to a vote as the team. Dolphins CEO Mike Dee and Mayor Calos Gimenez discussed the situation on Friday. After the meeting, the Herald reports, Giminez left feeling this was just the first of a series of negotiations needed before he can take a proposed referendum date to the county commission.

According to law, a referendum must be called 60 days before the voting is held. That would mean an agreement would have to be reached between the Dolphins and Giminez by March 15 to make the proposed May 14 voting date.

The Dolphins could be facing an uphill battle to get the public funding approval. The citizens and politicians in and around Miami are weary of using taxpayer money to pay for a sports franchise's stadium or renovations following the debacle that is Marlins Park. The Miami Marlins worked to get public funding to build a new baseball stadium on the site of the old Orange Bowl, allowing them to leave Sun Life Stadium. Part of the agreement with the team was an increase in payroll to increase the team's chances for the playoffs, and ultimately a shot at a third World Series title. The Marlins initially went on a spending spree, adding several big name players, seemingly holding up their end of the bargain. Then, midway through the season last year, the Marlins began a fire sale that lasted through this offseason.

Reeling from that betrayal, the public sentiment does not seem to be with the Dolphins. However, the team has tried to distance themselves from the Marlins fiasco, as well as making highly public pledges to continue to work with the citizens, politicians, and within the community to give back, helping those in need as well as working to boost the economy.

The Dolphins also face a battle in Tallahassee, as the State Legislature considers whether they approve of the plan to spend public funds for the team. The Dolphins are hoping to push their proposed bills through the State Senate and House of Representatives before the referendum. The regular session of the state legislature is scheduled to end May 3, meaning the bills would have to be approved before the referendum if the Dolphins are to have everything lined up for the NFL Owners Meeting.