Sun Life Stadium Revamp Proposal Raises Questions About Impact on Schools, Libraries

Proponents of a plan to give the Miami Dolphins' Sun Life stadium a major face-lift with up to $400 million in private dollars say they're working to address concerns that schools and other services in the stadium's host city of Miami Gardens could lose out in the deal.

Dolphins executives confirmed Tuesday that owner Steve Ross is offering to invest $350 to $400 million into renovating the 27-year-old facility, including adding a partial canopy to shade seating sections and new seats. After renovations are complete, the county would take ownership of the stadium. In return, Ross would get a property tax break of $3.8 million annually.

Dolphins' leadership touted the plan as an economic boost for the area that would create thousands of jobs and attract ongoing revenue by readying the city to host major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl.

"We haven't won a Super Bowl bid in Miami-Dade in far too long, and we know that with the stadium as an issue, we never will unless it is modernized," Ross said in a statement. "The Super Bowl Committee will have to decide if they want to compete for the next two Super Bowls so time is of the essence. It is time to move forward."

But the roughly $4 million a year drop in property taxes could add further strain to the already cash-strapped budgets of Miami Gardens and the Miami-Dade School District. Losing that revenue could make it harder for the county to keep public libraries open, for instance.

Algenelerro Frazier said that prospect makes him worry that "people don't have their priorities in order." He expressed concern for the impact on libraries like the one he frequents in Miami Gardens, which he said is a vital resource for kids who don't have computers at home and even a tool to fight crime.

"You know we need to start focusing back on the children and things that the children need and understand that structures like library systems give them a place to go," he said. "They say an idle mind is the devil's workshop."

Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel said the team is working to make sure library closures and other possible downsides to the deal don't happen. 

"It's early in the process, but we're having those conversations now," Garfinkel said. "We want to make Miami Gardens whole and do anything we can. They're our neighbors and it's important to us and obviously education's important to us as well."

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez called the proposal "worth looking at," saying "it really treats the Dolphins in the same way" as other professional sports teams in the region that play in stadiums already owned by the country. He pointed out that the renovation tab for Ross would be the equivalent of  "about a hundred years' worth of taxes that he's willing to put up right now."

That cash could be hard to find elsewhere, especially in light of the state Legislature's decision to kill last year's effort to have renovations partially paid for with public money.

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