MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami) – When football fans come to Sun Life Stadium this fall they’ll notice a lot of changes. The stadium is the midst of a $425 million dollar modernization.
It’s a major upgrade that up until a year ago the Dolphins owner wanted taxpayers to help pay.
The journey to the renovated stadium started nearly three years ago.
At a press conference in January of 2013, Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross made his pitch.
“It’s the only team that has had no public support for its facilities,” Ross said that day. “And I think that the dollar amount that I’m prepared to put in and is probably unmatched compared to any other facility in the country.”
Initially the Dolphins owner wanted hotel taxes to help pay for about half the bill for the improvements. Ross met resistance immediately.
Auto Dealer Norman Braman pledged to fight the issue. “It’s a rip-off. And I’ll do what I can.” Braman said.
Much of the outrage stemmed from the nearly $2 billion dollar taxpayer funded Marlins Ballpark.
Then Dolphins CEO Mike Dee pledged to do whatever it took to push a fair deal. A month after Ross’s announcement Dee agreed to let taxpayers have a say on the issue.
“Our harshest critics have said this is something that the voters should have a say on. We support that and we believe a decision by the voter will go our way,” Dee said.
The Dolphins agreed to take the issue to the voters, spending nearly $5 million dollars on a special election. But before the votes could be counted the Florida House speaker squashed the deal.
He refused to let legislators vote on a key tax break Ross wanted.
Will Weatherford, the House Speaker, explained “Before you spend $3-400 million on tax subsidies I think you need to talk about it and evaluate it. There is always next year.”
A few weeks later South Florida lost its bid for the Super Bowl 50.
South Florida Super Bowl Committee chairman Rodney Barretto blamed the stadium as the reason.
“Obviously the elephant in the room is our stadium,” Barretto said.
In March in 2014 Ross decided to step up and bankroll the $400 million improvements without taxpayer dollars.
A few months later Miami-Dade Commissioners agreed to a deal that pays Ross for bringing big events to town.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez believed it was more than fair.
“It’s a very good deal for us,” Gimenez said.
Miami-Dade would pay $4 million for Superbowl’s and World Cup Finals’. Miami-Dade would pay $3 Million for college football championships and World Cup matches.
The money considered to be incentive for events that bring tourists and worldwide exposure for South Florida.
A week after the commission approved the deal stadium construction began.
The key differences in the stadium this season will be the seating.
Nosebleed seats have been removed, while seats in the lower section have been moved closer to the field. The changes have led to 10,000 less seats.
At a recent press conference Ross spoke about his stadium renovations.
“I think the fans want to go to a place where it’s more comfortable, their experience is enhanced, that’s what we’ve done,” he said.
Ross is not only proud of his investment, as so far Dol-fans have responded positively. The team says they are close to selling out the season.
“People are buying tickets, buying suites, paying money that no one expected they would have. We have really kind of changed the whole way people look at stadiums. And I think we are really the model of what a stadium should be. Miami is getting a brand new stadium,” Ross said.
Well almost. Some of the key changes like that roof and four gigantic high definition screens won’t be installed until next summer.
Still Ross is betting his shiny stadium will change Miami’s standing for the Super Bowl.
Ross explained “When you see what we have done. I don’t think there is a stadium that can compete with us. It’s going to be state of the art. And it’s Florida man! Everyone wants to be here!”
So far Miami is back in the running for Super Bowls. We are on the short list for Super Bowls in 2019 and 20. The winning cities will be announced in May 2016.