Reporting Lauren Pastrana
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MIAMI (CBS4) – With the referendum election to decide the future of Sun Life Stadium less than three weeks away, Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee opened the 26-year-old facility to reporters and cameras for a behind the scenes tour Friday.
Dee described the stadium as a “beautiful home with a rusty fence” as he highlighted some of the less attractive features.
He showed off chipping paint, peeling floors and some of the more outdated infrastructure, like the hydraulic system used to move seats on the sideline.
The stadium is not exactly in tip top shape, but does it deserve a modernization funded in part by public dollars?
That’s still up for debate.
“We’ve had a great dialogue,” Dee said. “The reaction to the partnership with the county since it was announced has been overwhelmingly positive.”
The plan to add a roof canopy, upgraded lights and modified seating would cost about $350 million.
Dee said that’s about a third of what it would cost to build a new stadium, which he believes would be necessary if repairs and improvements aren’t made soon.
“We’d be looking at a total replacement of the seating bowl at some point in the next 5 years,” Dee explained.
The lights have been around since the stadium opened in 1987, according to Dee.
The giant video boards, just 8 years old now, are in need of repair.
The rows upon rows of orange seats are starting to fade.
“That’s our 1987 logo so if there’s any question when these seats date back to, there it is, rusting away,” Dee explained as he pointed at the old symbol for the team.
Plus, there’s the matter of the Marlins.
The baseball franchise used to call Sun Life Stadium home before moving to its new digs in Miami.
Now that the team is gone, some areas in the stadium are basically useless.
The batting cage has been transformed into “Sideline Lounge”, but the old Marlins clubhouse sits empty and the dugouts no longer serve their intended purposes.
Getting rid of the dugouts would allow for more the lower bowl seats to be extended out by roughly 18 feet, Dee said, bringing the fans closer to the sidelines.
Four high-definition screens would be installed in the corners of the stadium and the escalators would be replaced.
The previous owners upgraded parts of the club level in 2007, but Dee said the current ownership would finish the job.
Some of the money for the modernization would come from a state tax break and a tourist tax increase, but lawmakers in Tallahassee Friday decided not to hear the bill in committee.
The state Senate postponed debate again.
Dee said news of the bill’s demise “are greatly exaggerated.”
“We do remain confident as we head into the last week that the elected officials in Tallahassee will allow the voters of Miami-DadeCounty to have the final say on this matter and we’re looking forward to the referendum on May 14th,” Dee said.
The legislative session ends Friday, May 3rd
If voters approve the plan, Dee said construction would start in August and wrap up by July of 2015.