In another event staged to highlight benefits of the Sun Life Stadium renovation plan, the Miami Dolphins announced on Tuesday that they are partnering with an organization called Operation 305 to ensure that at least 70 percent of jobs from the project go to Miami-Dade County residents.
The team held a news conference at the stadium, inviting representatives from the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, the Latin American Business Association, and South Florida Workforce to take part. All of those groups support the stadium makeover plan.
The Dolphins estimate the construction project will provide at least 4,000 jobs for up to 24 months, until the project is done.
Operation 305 was brought in to make sure the PortMiami tunnel project employed mostly local workers and firms. Now, the group says, that project is going to be the model for the stadium renovation.
"At the Port of Miami tunnel, we wanted a project and the workforce and the vendors and the subcontractors to be a mirror of the community, and we were able to do that, we have now 82 percent of all the folks working on that tunnel are right here from Miami-Dade," said Chris Hodgkins of Operation 305.
Bill Diggs of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce said his organization supports the plan, which voters must approve in a special referendum May 14, because he said it’s a shot in the arm for the local economy.
"At the end of the day, this is not only about inclusion, it's economic development in some of the hardest-hit areas in our community," Diggs said.
The plan is controversial, though, because the county has agreed to raise the tourist bed tax from 6 to 7 percent, giving 75 percent of the additional revenue to the Dolphins to pay for the renovation. The Dolphins must pay $120 million back to the county 26 years from now. In fact, the team is paying more than half the cost of the stadium makeover. But critics say the team's billionaire owner, Stephen Ross, should just pay for the $350 million project himself, since he owns the stadium. Why, they ask, should public money be spent on a private project?
Because, supporters say, bringing the stadium up to date will ensure more big events, like Super Bowls, will take place here, and the local economy will reap the windfall.
William Delgado of the Latin American Business Association calls it a "no brainer" because tourists are paying for it.
"Someone else is gonna pay the bill and we are gonna reap all the benefits," Delgado said.
Before the issue goes to the voters, the state legislature must pass a bill that gives the Dolphins a sales tax break on items sold at the stadium. That, too, is part of the funding plan, but local voters will not get to decide that part of it. Even so, the team has scheduled a jobs fair for Thursday morning at 10 a.m. at the stadium, encouraging anyone interested in construction jobs to apply now.
Rick Beasley of South Florida Workforce said the team is not jumping the gun a bit, but is doing smart planning.
"(With) the Marlins, I can tell you, we were brought in after the fact; we met with the Dolphins two months ago in preparation, so this is just a way of utilizing our database because we are a countywide organization and it allows us to help folks get access to potential jobs," Beasley said.
Critics of the makeover plan say the Dolphins are vastly overestimating the amount of jobs the project will actually provide.
For more information on the stadium project from South Florida Workforce, click here.
More South Florida Sports Stories: