The Miami Dolphins and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez have reached a deal on the public funding request from the Dolphins for renovations to Sun Life Stadium. The deal, which would include a raise in the hotel tax from 6% to 7%, will be presented to the entire County Commission on Wednesday, then will likely be sent to the public for a referendum to be held on May 14.
The official public notification for the referendum must be posted by this Sunday to meet the required 31 days of notice for the vote to happen on May 14. The Dolphins have already stated they would pay for the referendum, which will have an estimated cost of $3-5 million.
The deal, according to Gimenez and Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, would give the Dolphins 75% of the hotel tax raise up to $7.5 million in year one, with a 3% increase in the dollar amount cap per year. That deal would run for 26 years.
Along with the hotel tax money, the Dolphins have asked the state to provide them a $3 million per year rebate on sales tax generated from within Sun Life Stadium. That money is controlled by the state legislature, with bills currently working their way through the House and Senate, along with the authorization for Miami-Dade to increase the hotel tax.
As for the Miami-Dade County money, the Dolphins have pledged to repay between $110-120 million of the money they receive in 2043. The repayment pledge would remain on the books, even if owner Stephen Ross were to sell the team. The deal also guarantees that the Dolphins remain in Miami for the next 30 years.
The Dolphins also agreed to pay for any cost overruns, and guaranteed reception of either Super Bowl 50 or 51, which the NFL will award at their May 21-22 owners meetings. Without one of those two championship games heading to Miami, the Dolphins have said they will allow the voters to withdraw the public funding.
The team has also guaranteed four Super Bowls, four NCAA Championship games, and 22 international soccer matches over the next 30 years. If those events don't materialize, the Dolphins could pay up to an additional $120 million in penalties.
When the referendum reaches the voters, the Dolphins face a public still reeling from the debacle that was the Miami Marlins stadium funding. However, Mayor Gimenez now asserts that this deal is completely different than the one that built Marlins Park only to see owner Jeffery Loria blow up his team less than a year later.
"This deal is so different from the Marlins deal,'' he explained, "even to say them in the same breath is a stretch. It is like night and day."
Gimenez went on to say he would be happy to vote for this deal.
After the deal was announced, Ross released a statement via the Dolphins' website:
"We are proud to join Mayor Gimenez in agreeing to an unprecedented public-private partnership that will modernize Sun Life Stadium and protect property tax payers, while helping secure the future for Super Bowls, college championships and international soccer in Miami-Dade. The future is also brighter for the University of Miami Hurricanes and the Orange Bowl.
"We look forward to working with the County Commission to ensure that the voters of Miami-Dade have the final say on creating more than 4,000 jobs and pumping millions of dollars into the local economy. When the people of Miami-Dade go to the polls, we are confident they will support this partnership, where the Dolphins will pay approximately 70 percent costs, will repay approximately $167 million to the state and county, will pay for 100 percent of any cost overruns during construction, and will be committed to staying in Miami-Dade for the next 30 years.
"I want to thank Mayor Gimenez and his team for their hard work and commitment to bringing jobs and opportunity to the people of Miami-Dade. This is truly an unprecedented agreement, and the Mayor deserves tremendous credit for making it happen. I love this community and nothing would make me prouder than watching the Miami Dolphins play a Super Bowl in a modernized Sun Life Stadium. That's more than a dream for me -- it's a goal I will work toward every day. I know that together we can make it happen."
The proposed renovations would include a canopy over the Sun Life Stadium seating areas, high definition video boards, and high definition lighting, all of which the NFL has said are required if Sun Life Stadium were to be awarded any future Super Bowls.