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Braman, Dolphins Differ On Funding For Sun Life Stadium Improvements

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Sun Life Stadium Upgrade Rendering (Source: Miami Dolphins)

Sun Life Stadium Upgrade Rendering (Source: Miami Dolphins)

Miami Dolphins

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A war of words has broken out over who should pay for planned renovations to Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has proposed a $400 million plan that includes improved seating, giant video screens and other amenities topped off by a canopy to give fans some shade. Ross says he’ll pay for most of the upgrades but he wants the state and Miami-Dade County to pay the rest. The money would come from a hike in tourist taxes and state tax cuts for the Dolphins.

“The private funding would account for more than 50 percent of the project cost, at a minimum,” Dolphins president Mike Dee told Jim DeFede on Facing South Florida.

The rest would come from a public-private partnership which would be developed. Two potential sources would be a sales tax rebate and the tourist tax increase. The sales tax rebate for the stadium, which comes from concessions and merchandise, would come to about $2 million a year. Dee said they would like another $3 million in rebates for 30 years.

“We’re not wed to those. I think that if were able to enter into a thoughtful discussion and a process, we’re open minded to any and all public funding ideas.”

Miami businessman Norman Braman said increasing Miami-Dade’s tourist bed tax is a bad idea and would like nothing better than to become the deal killer for the proposal.

“I think this is Marlins 2 revisited. It’s welfare for a multi-billionaire. It’s not in the best interest of the citizens of this community. To take dollars which are basically tax dollars and extend an additional $3 million a year to the Dolphins for an indefinite period of time after they are already receiving $2 million is just wrong,” said Braman.

Braman, who fought a losing fight against the Marlins Ballpark, told DeFede the tax increase would hurt Miami-Dade’s tourism.

“It’s an increase of 17 percent in tourist taxes. Why would we want to tax people who come to our community to vacation here. I think that is counter to our tourism industry. Secondly, that money should be utilized to expand our convention facilities which bring conventions here and brings individuals here. It’s better use of the dollars.”

Braman said the increase for the stadium renovation would only be an asset improvement for Ross who is worth $4.4 billion dollars.

“Steve Ross should write the check,” said Braman.

Dee pointed out the increased bed tax would only affect mainland Miami-Dade and not Broward County.

“The stadium is in Miami-Dade County and we’ve looked at Miami-Dade County as being our partner on this, and as such we’re committed to make certain commitments to Miami-Dade County that will drive the value for Super Bowls and other big events that we put on to Miami-Dade as ‘quo’ for that ‘quid’,” said Dee.

DeFede questioned why Broward County wouldn’t be included in the proposed bed tax increase since they benefit from the Super Bowl and other big events at Sun Life Stadium.

“The stadium is in Miami-Dade County and that is where the partnership has to be centered,” replied Dee.

Dee added that moving forward they would ask the Super Bowl committee to center all activities and hotel bookings in Miami-Dade.

Dee said there is not enough time to put the tax increase before the voters because there is a Super Bowl 50 bid in 18 weeks and if they are “going to put their best foot forward, which we believe is very important to our success in that bid effort, we have to be able to have this done and ready to put into our bid.”

Rodney Barreto, chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Bid Committee, said the renovations would go a long way in luring another Super Bowl to South Florida. He added that for the 2010 Super Bowl, Broward County kicked in $2 million.

Discussion of the Dolphins’ plan will soon go before the county’s commission.  Commissioner Barbara Jordan is slated to introduce a resolution Wednesday backing the Miami Dolphins’ plan.  The resolution urges Florida lawmakers to pass a bill allowing the funding.

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