3/25/13, "Anger in Wake of Marlins’ Stadium Deal Threatens Dolphins’ Renovation Plan,
" NY Times, Ken Belson
"Carlos Gimenez does not mind being a killjoy when it comes to stadiums. When he was a Miami-Dade County commissioner in 2009, he opposed public
financing for the Marlins’ new baseball stadium, a deal considered by
many to be one of the worst giveaways in sports. Now the county’s mayor
he is taking a wary approach to a proposal to use $200 million in taxes
to help the Dolphins renovate their stadium.
The trouble, Gimenez said, is that voters are still angry that lawmakers
agreed to use taxes to pay for three-quarters of the Marlins’ stadium
and that the Marlins and their owner, Jeffrey Loria, repaid the favor by
trading away many of their best players
within a year of moving into
their new home. The deal became so toxic that it
prompted the scrutiny of federal regulators and was one reason the
previous mayor lost his job.
“There’s a much more tangible public benefit” to the Dolphins’ proposal,
Gimenez said in an interview recently. “But the Marlins’ stadium has
created such an adverse appetite for another deal because the Marlins
have really poisoned the well.”
Ten Super Bowls have been played in Miami, making it the sentimental
favorite for the golden anniversary game. But Sun Life Stadium, the
26-year-old home of the Dolphins, is considered antiquated by N.F.L.
In their pitch to persuade the state and the county to pay for half of
the $400 million project, the Dolphins have said that the stadium would
include a canopy over the fans to protect them from the rain and sun,
new seats and video boards and improved concourses. The improvements,
they say, would help attract additional college bowl games and create
4,000 new jobs.
State lawmakers are now considering whether to exempt the Dolphins from
$90 million in state income tax over 30 years and permit Miami-Dade
County to raise its hotel bed tax by 1 percentage point to cover the
balance of the public share of the stadium deal.
Their plan might have received a warmer welcome if it had not come so
soon after the Marlins moved into their stadium and dismantled their
team. As of Thursday, the bill still had to pass through two more
committees in the state assembly and one more committee in the state
senate before it could be brought to the floor for a vote. Gov. Rick
Scott has not clearly indicated whether he will sign the bill if it
reaches his desk.
Many local politicians remain skittish about supporting the use of taxes
to pay for sports facilities. This month, three state representatives
from Miami-Dade wrote in The Miami Herald that the proposed stadium deal
was “a trick play” and, referring to the Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross,
“simply a sham designed to increase Ross’s shareholder value of the
Other critics are more strident. Norman Braman, a former owner of the
Philadelphia Eagles who lives in Florida and opposed the public
financing of the Marlins’ stadium, said that Ross should pay for the
renovations because he was the one who would benefit the most from them.
“If he’s improving his asset, let him pay for it,” Braman said, adding
that officials in Miami-Dade should insist that the Dolphins open their
books before they consider investing in the team’s stadium. “It’s
welfare for a multimillionaire with Loria, and with Ross it’s welfare
Gimenez has insisted that the county not assume any liability for the
cost of the renovations, and he has asked several deputies to calculate
the public benefits of helping the Dolphins. He has also turned the
tables on the N.F.L. by suggesting that he would support a deal only if
there were more certainty that Miami would be awarded Super Bowl L,
something the league is unlikely to offer. Even assuming the state signs
off on a deal, Gimenez must hold a countywide vote on the bed tax hike,
something that did not happen when the Marlins’ deal was approved in
2009. The mayor needs at least 45 days to prepare for an election, not
including the time it takes the county commissioners to haggle over the
language in the referendum....
He also said the team had been heavy-handed in arguing its case. Mike
Dee, the club president, was widely criticized for telling Michael
Putney, a television reporter in Miami, that “just because someone is
wealthy enough doesn’t mean that you should invest money in a way that
Through a spokesman, Dee declined to comment for this article, citing
the continuing negotiations with the county. But the Dolphins have tried
to distance themselves from the Marlins.
“We shouldn’t let the Marlins situation kill the potential for a good
deal where at least a majority of the cost is paid from private sources
and more than 4,000 local jobs are created,” the Dolphins wrote in a
release announcing their plans.
Given the economics of N.F.L. stadiums, the Dolphins are seeking what
their rivals have received. This month, Atlanta promised to pay $200
million toward a new stadium for the Falcons, whose current home is
barely two decades old. The Vikings won larger concessions from
Minneapolis and Minnesota. New York State and Erie County agreed to pay
$95 million to upgrade Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Buffalo Bills’ home.
The San Diego Chargers, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the St. Louis Rams are seeking new stadiums or renovations, too.
Critics often argue that taxes should not be used to help private
enterprises when governments are having a hard time paying for
hospitals, schools and law enforcement. But politicians, chastened by
deals like what the Marlins received, are starting to question not just
the justification for the financing, but also the need for stadium
Gimenez said he wondered whether the lack of a roof at Sun Life Stadium
was really what was preventing Miami from landing another title game.
After all, he said, the Super Bowl will be held at MetLife Stadium in
New Jersey next year."