Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross has come up with a new proposal to fund the $400 million renovations to Sun Life Stadium. Last year, Ross asked for government assistance to fund nearly all of the cost. However, now Ross says he is willing to privately finance the renovations if the team can stop paying property taxes on the stadium.
Ross has been pushing for government assistance since acquiring 95% ownership of the Dolphins in 2009. That push was heightened in 2012 when Miami was in competition with San Francisco to host the 50th anniversary Super Bowl in 2016. After the team failed to obtain funding for the renovations, San Francisco won the bid.
Under the new proposal, Ross will pay for the renovations, Miami-Dade County will take ownership of the stadium, and the stadium will become a property tax free entity. A similar set up is used by the Miami Marlins and Miami Heat. Both teams play in county-owned facilities that aren’t subject to property taxes. According to Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel, the Dolphins proposal is a fair deal, and Ross just “wants to be treated like all the other franchise owners.”
Miami officials aren’t entirely convinced by the deal yet but say “it is a much better deal than what [they] were talking about last year.” Mayor Carlos Giminez says, “The economic impact of these events cannot be overstated, and therefore we always want to remain competitive as a host for Super Bowl and other such events. However, there are still hurdles that the Dolphins organization must overcome before I feel comfortable with the proposal.” Giminez agrees the stadium needs to be renovated if Miami ever hopes to host a Super Bowl again, but doesn’t want to harm the school board or Miami Gardens budgets.
Currently, the company that owns Sun Life is the city’s top taxpayer and largest private employer. It paid about $3.8 million in taxes last year and employed 1,200 people. Of that amount, about $1.3 million was used for the school system and $1 million was used by Miami Gardens. In total, Sun Life accounted for 3.5% of the city’s total tax base.
While there may still be some details to work out, it appears a deal is getting close. Giminez says, “Throughout this process, we will continue to seek was to enhance our competitiveness while protecting the interests of our community.”