– The Miami Dolphins and Miami-Dade County government announced Monday they hope to hold a special election on whether public funds should be used to finance $400 million in renovations to Sun Life Stadium. The renovations would be made in hopes of landing Super Bowl 50 in 2016.
But that special election among Miami-Dade County voters (Broward County would be unaffected) needs to happen soon.
The NFL, which has told the Dolphins the upgrades are necessary if it hopes to land another Super Bowl, meets in Boston on May 22 to decide which city gets Super Bowl 50. Miami and San Francisco are the main contenders.
The city that loses on the Super Bowl 50 bid goes against Houston to host Super Bowl 51.
Dolphins owner Steve Ross has said he'd be willing to pay 51 percent, or $201 million, of the stadium renovation cost.
But Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez talked as though Ross would need to kick in more money for approval.
"What he would want and need, and what he's going to get are probably two different things," Gimenez said.
The special election is an abrupt about-face for the Dolphins, who as recently as a month ago claimed there wouldn't be time to hold a public election on the stadium financing issue. Gimenez, likely mindful of the backlash politicians took from the Marlins Stadium financing plan - which wasn't put before a vote, changed the Dolphins' thinking.
"The mayor…gave us a pathway and showed us a plan as to how we could do that together," Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said of the special election, "and we embraced it."
Neither the county government nor the Dolphins know when the special election would be held. The Dolphins' finance plan has to be approved by the mayor. Then he'd take it to the Board of County Commissioners to get approval for an election.
The Dolphins would draw their public financing from a $3 million subsidy, an increase (to 7 percent from 6 percent) of the mainland hotel bed tax, and a state sales tax rebate.
Gimenez spoke of having an "option" if Miami doesn't get awarded Super Bowl 50. Perhaps in that instance the public might not have to finance renovation plans.
"That's why I like to have an option at the end of the day," he said. "If, in fact, we get an agreement, and if, in fact, the people vote 'yes,' I'd like to have an option on the yes."
The Dolphins and the county government still have to convince voters this deal is different than Marlins Park.
Forbes Magazine called the Marlins deal "baseball's most expensive stadium disaster." The stadium's cost was about $639 million, about $500 million of which was financed with public funds. But estimates say Marlins Park could ultimately cost Miami-Dade County taxpayers $2 billion.
The NFL issued renovation requirements in December but the Dolphins haven't yet showed them to the county. Dee said the team would disclose the information, if necessary.
"We will share all the appropriate documentation that the county requests to this process," Dee said.
Gimenez, again trying to distance himself from the Marlins debacle, used stronger language.
"That was a bad deal," he said of the Marlins Park financing, "and a lot of things were kept in the dark. I don't deal that way. I'm sure the Dolphins don't deal that way also."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times