Reporting Tim Kephart
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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – The battle over renovations to Sun Life Stadium and how to pay for it took center stage in Tallahassee Wednesday. The House Economic Affairs Committee approved legislation to allow the modernization plans to move closer to a full House vote.
The Senate Rules Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to move the plan forward. The plan will use a combination of public and private money. The Senate Committee amended the bill to require the Dolphins to pay back some of the taxpayer money within 30 years.
But with each day dragging on in the legislature, time continues to run extremely short to get a measure before the voters of Miami-Dade County in time to have the funding secured before the National Football League awards Super Bowl L on May 22.
The date all parties have been keeping their eyes on is May 22. That’s the date the NFL owners are scheduled to meet and during those meetings, the decision will be made on who to award Super Bowl L to, Santa Clara, California, or Miami.
But, next Friday, April 12, is just as significant a date for the Dolphins and the Super Bowl Committee. According to the law, a decision must be made by the end of the day on April 12 on whether to hold a special referendum vote on May 14.
May 14 is the target date for Miami-Dade County because several municipal elections are already scheduled to be held, according to Nelson. The vote would be over whether to give up more than $200 million in local tourist tax money to help finance the renovation of Sun Life Stadium.
The Dolphins are desperate to get the money and the upgrade for Sun Life. Without the upgrade, Sun Life may never host another Super Bowl or other major championship games as billion dollar stadiums elsewhere offer more luxury than Sun Life could.
The Dolphins have vowed to repay both the state and county for their contributions to the stadium and have said thousands of local jobs would be created from the renovation project. The state legislature must also give its blessing to the plan, but that is seen basically as a formality at this point.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez told CBS4 in an interview that the Dolphins paying for the vote and the vote itself are mandatory and won’t be negotiated. Gimenez said a ruling on the legality of the Fins paying for the election would come from either the Secretary of State’s office or in a bill from the legislature.
Keeping it on the 14th would avoid problems associated with a vote on a separate date and give the Dolphins time to formulate any backup options if the voters of Miami-Dade County rejected the plan from the team.
Fins owner Stephen Ross has promised that if the plan is passed by the voters, all Super Bowl activities will be focused in Miami-Dade County. South Florida has hosted a record 10 Super Bowls, but Super Bowl L has been the toughest game for the area to win in recent memory.
If Super Bowl L, or Super Bowl LI is given to the area, it’s possible the game will be held on the same weekend as the Miami International Boat Show.