The people of South Florida may be turning against the Miami Dolphins' effort to secure public funds for a proposed $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium.
On Wednesday, The Miami Herald released results of a public opinion poll conducted by a Florida International University political science professor for a private client. The poll shows that 73 percent of the 1,000 likely Miami-Dade voters surveyed oppose the plan put forward by the Dolphins.
Team owner Stephen Ross has pledged to provide nearly $200 million towards the project, with the remainder coming from two proposed public sources: state sales tax rebates and Miami-Dade County hotel taxes.
Sixty-one percent of respondents were strongly opposed to the plan, while 12 percent said they only oppose it. Only 17 percent either support or strongly support the plan. The poll question read as follows:
The Dolphins are asking for a one-cent increase in the "bed tax" in Miami-Dade County, as well as a $3-million-a-year rebate in sales tax revenue generated by goods and services at Sun Life Stadium. Stephen Ross, the owner of the Dolphins, has pledged to pay for at least half of the $400 million renovations himself, meaning the team is asking for approximately $199 million in public funding. Do you support or oppose this plan?
"This is toxic to the Legislature, the county commission and the executive," said Dario Moreno, the academic who conducted the poll. "There's not one group of likely voter who supports this idea. Even in County Commission District 1, where the stadium is, people are overwhelmingly opposed."
Moreno said opposition was strong among both Democrats and Republicans. He likened the level of opposition to the mayoral recall that ousted former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, in large part due to opposition to the subsidies provided by the county towards the construction of Marlins Park.
"Miami-Dade County has not yet recovered from the Marlins deal," Moreno said. "And I think people are very reluctant to give public money to a private sports team."
The Dolphins fired back later on Wednesday in a statement released by team CEO Mike Dee. "A ginned-up poll paid for by a mystery client that goes out of its way to lead people to a negative position is hardly enough to sway us from our efforts to put this issue in front of voters this spring," the statement read. "We believe in the people of Miami-Dade County, and trust that the voters can and will see the differences in our project from prior ones."
Dee added, "We know that we have to make our case to the elected leaders and the people of Miami-Dade. It’s a challenge we readily accept and are confident it will end with the voters approving our plans to create more jobs and more opportunity for the people of Miami-Dade County."
The local portion of the public funding will be subject to a referendum while the state bill still needs to pass through two Senate committees before the full Senate can vote on it.
The team has been fighting the perception that their plan represents a giveaway to a billionaire sports owner, taking out full-page ads in local newspapers and distancing the plan from the construction of Marlins Park. These poll results suggest the team still has an uphill climb ahead of it.