MIAMI (CBS4) – The Miami Dolphins have kicked off a campaign to pitch their deal to use public money to help fund stadium upgrades to Miami-Dade County voters.
Miami First is a coalition of county business and community leaders supporting the efforts to modernize Sun Life Stadium paid for in part by a tourism tax hike.
The political push will be lead by businessman and fundraiser Jorge Arrizurieta and lawyer H.T. Smith.
Miami First organizers held a launch event at the NFL Youth Education Town Center at Gwen Cherry Park Thursday.
“This is a good deal for the community,” organizer H.T. Smith said. “This is not the Marlins deal.”
Differentiating the two deals is a top priority for Miami First.
Smith dug even further into the past in hopes of influencing the future.
“For ten years we didn’t get the Super Bowl because we refused to modernize the Orange Bowl,” he explained.
The Miami Dolphins are banking on the promise of covered seats and upgraded lights to help Miami secure a future Super Bowl when the big games are awarded next month.
Miami-Dade County Commissioners agreed to put the deal to a referendum vote set for May 14th.
Elections Headquarters was up and running Thursday, as workers organized supplies and tested machines.
“This is a compressed time frame for the elections department, we do typically have more time to prepare but we’re very confident that we’ll be able to conduct a successful election,” Deputy Elections Supervisor Christina White said.
All that election prep could be for nothing if the state legislature doesn’t approve the tax funding for the stadium.
The legislative session ends May 3rd, but early and absentee voting start before then.
Arrizurietta said Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s “stamp of approval” on the deal should help push it through.
He added, “What happened yesterday sends a strong message to Tallahassee.”
Smith said his focus is on South Florida, not the state capital.
“Concerned? Yes. Worried? No,” Smith said. “We have work to do and our work is to talk to the voters of Miami-Dade County.”
“We’re extremely encouraged,” Arrizurietta said. “It’s a tall order. But it can be done.”
Smith and Arrizurietta will be compensated as consultants for their work with Miami First, but did not have an estimate of how much the campaign might cost.
The Miami-Dade Democratic Party, which has spoken out against the deal, has said it will host several town hall style meetings to educate the public about what they’ll be voting on come May 14th.
As part of the deal, the Dolphins will have to pay nearly $5 million for the special election.