MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami) – Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross confirmed Tuesday that he is indeed willing to foot the bill to renovate Sun Life Stadium if he’s given property tax relief in exchange.
“I have decided the best way to get this done (upgrading Sun Life Stadium) is to pay for the project with private funds,” Ross said in a statement. “All we ask in return is that we are treated the same as all franchises in the state of Florida. A world-class city needs a world-class stadium.”
The sentiment was echoed by Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel during an interview with CBS4’s David Sutta Tuesday.
“Dolphin fans deserve to have a winner. They deserve to have a team that honors the proud tradition of this room and that’s what we are trying to do,” Garfinkel said.
Ross said that time is crucial in moving the plan forward because the South Florida Super Bowl Committee needs to decide quickly if they want to compete for the next two Super Bowls up for bid.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez weighed in Tuesday on Twitter and said that the “economic impact cannot be overstated & therefore we always want to remain competitive as a host for the Super Bowl & other such events.”
The county would have to sign off on the plan because Ross would be turning over ownership of the stadium to Miami-Dade County. This is the same plan in place for both Marlins Park and the AmericanAirlines Arena.
But, as county property, no more property taxes will be paid on the building. That would cost the county approximately $4 million in property tax revenue per year, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald.
“When you think of all the other franchises, they receive public money,” Garfinkel said. “They don’t pay any taxes; and they drive economic impact in their own right.”
Gimenez said the new proposal from Ross is an improvement, but not complete yet.
“There are hurdles @MiamiDolphins must overcome before I feel comfortable with the proposal,” Gimenez wrote on Twitter. “Throughout this process, we will continue to seek ways to enhance our competitiveness while protecting the interests of our community.”
The interests Gimenez is referring to are Super Bowls and college football national championship games. Miami has already lost out on hosting two Super Bowls due to Sun Life’s condition and wasn’t considered for the first few college football championship games under the new playoff formula.
Mayor Gimenez said Monday that before he signs on to any deal, he wants the renovations completed and wants a guarantee that Ross will keep the stadium updated throughout the years. In addition, he wants a plan to replace any lost property tax revenue.
For his part, Ross said the project would create more than 4,000 jobs and, “I am going to make the commitment and provide the resources because Miami deserves the economic benefits of a modernized stadium.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made no secret that in exchange for hosting a Super Bowl, a city has to have state of the art facilities. He’s previously said South Florida won’t be hosting the big game until major renovations are made to Sun Life Stadium.
Among the renovations Ross has planned for Sun Life is a canopy to protect fans from both rain and the blinding sun that used to make attending Marlins’ games at Sun Life so tough.
Garfinkel said that Ross wants to “get this done” and wants to move forward with the plan.
Ross said a new deal would “secure the future of the Dolphins in Miami-Dade for another 20 years.”
“I grew up here in Miami-Dade and have been part of this area for most of my life,” Ross said. “I want to do this for the community that has done so much for me, and for this storied franchise that means so much to the people of South Florida…That is more important to me than anything else.”
So if the Dolphins don’t get the property tax help, is the deal dead again? Not necessarily.
“That’s a question for Steve,” Garfinkel said. “I think it’s early in the process. He wants to invest the money. He wants to get this done; and he wants to be treated fairly.”