Miami Dolphins Get More Sun Life Renovation Endorsements

Local business leaders express support for renovating Sun Life Stadium, but team faces challenges ahead in securing public financing

The Miami Dolphins announced two new endorsements for the team's plan to renovate and modernize Sun Life Stadium, but whether initiatives to secure financing from state and local governments pan out remains to be seen.

On Monday, the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Aventura Marketing Council publicly supported the Sun Life Stadium plan, both on the basis of jobs that it's expected to create.

"The Aventura Marketing Council understands the importance of the jobs created at Sun Life Stadium during such major community events as Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, BCS Bowl Championships and the Orange Bowl, and therefore supports Sun Life Stadium in their efforts to continue providing jobs and economic stimulus for this area," said Aventura Marketing Council President Elaine Adler.

But the latest news from the legislative front suggests that the Dolphins still need to convince some important stakeholders that the $200 million in public financing needed to renovate Sun Life Stadium does not represent a lavish giveaway to the team's billionaire owner, Stephen Ross.

On Friday, a Florida House of Representatives panel voted to approve a bill that would guarantee $3 million a year in state money for the next 30 years to help pay for stadium upgrades. However, among the members who voted against the plan were legislators from Miami-Dade County, including Rep. Bill Hager (R-Delray Beach).

"The NFL is conning us," Hader said Friday. Two legislators from Miami-Dade tried to add language to the bill that would require Ross to put up more of his own money for the renovations or return money to the state if he sells the team. Those efforts failed.

In addition to the House panel, two Senate committees have voted for the measure. The team wants to use the state money, plus an increase in Miami-Dade County hotel taxes, to finance roughly half the cost of the $400 million renovation plan. Ross has pledged $199 million of his own money towards the project.

The public may be beginning to turn against publicly-financed sports facilities, though, in the wake of the PR nightmare facing the Miami Marlins after the team drastically cut payroll in advance of its second season in Marlins Park.

The Dolphins, sensing this, have repeatedly contrasted their plan with the arrangement that financed the construction of Marlins Park. The Marlins put up just under a quarter of the over $600 million spent building Marlins Park and surrounding parking facilities.

The Dolphins also are competing against other groups for state money. The Legislature is currently assessing a bill that would help pay for renovating the Jacksonville Jaguars' stadium, one which would fund a new soccer stadium, and one that would help pay for renovations at Daytona International Speedway.

Then there is the local financing portion. Miami-Dade voters must vote to approve a plan to raise local hotel bed taxes, with the increase earmarked for Sun Life Stadium. Recent polls suggest the public opposes the measure. A date for the vote has not been set, but it is expected to occur before May 22, when the NFL will announce whether Miami or San Francisco will host the 50th anniversary Super Bowl in 2017.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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