Miami-Dade County Commissioners voted 8-3 Wednesday to let voters decide whether to go ahead with the deal reached between the Miami Dolphins and County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to renovate Sun Life Stadium.
Commissioners made the decision in a special meeting after discussing the issue for much of the afternoon at the Stephen P. Clark Center.
A county referendum will be held May 14. The Dolphins have agreed to pay for the election, which is expected to cost about $4.8 million.
The deal was reached by Gimenez and the Dolphins late Monday night. The Dolphins want to make $350 million in renovations to the stadium, with the team paying about 70 percent of the costs, owner Stephen Ross said.
Commissioner Jean Monestime called it "a fair deal." But even saying that private dollars would cover 70 percent of the cost of the renovations wasn't enough to win over some commissioners.
"What I don't want to see is another team owner take advantage of this community," Commissioner Juan Zapata said.
He seemed to echo activist Norman Braman, who started the successful recall drive against former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez over the Marlins Park deal.
"And it's wrong, not when you have an individual like Steve Ross, who is the 83rd-wealthiest person in the United States, for the taxpayers to assume the responsibility for someone improving his asset that he should do himself,” Braman told NBC 6.
Braman, who once owned the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, said the deal with the Dolphins is just as bad as the county’s agreement to build the Marlins’ ballpark – even though it involves only tourist taxes, and the team will pay the money back to the county 26 years from now.
Braman said he does not trust Gimenez on the Sun Life Stadium matter, even though he was a staunch opponent of the Marlins Park deal.
"No, of course not. It's still welfare for a multibillionaire. It hasn't changed," Braman said.
Under the agreement, the county would increase its mainland hotel tax rate from 6 percent to 7 percent, then give the team 75 percent of the new revenue up to $7.5 million in the first year. The cap would increase by 3 percent every year thereafter.
After 30 years, the team would refund between $110 million and $120 million to Miami-Dade.
"This deal, for the first time I think in sports, actually has a return of a portion of our investment in real dollars," Gimenez said at Wednesday's meeting.
The team has offered to scrap the plan altogether if it is not awarded Super Bowl L or LI by the NFL later this spring, and will pay penalties if the renovated stadium does not attract a certain number of Super Bowls, BCS games, international soccer matches and other similar events over the next three decades.