Dolphins seek $400 million for stadium upgrades

caines | 1/17/2013, 4:30 a.m.

Jobs for Blacks or another Marlins-like deal?

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants to upgrade Sun Life Stadium to the tune of $400 million so that he can attract more world-class events, including Super Bowl 50, and presented his plan to the public last Monday. But unlike the boggled Marlins Stadium that left taxpayers holding the bag, Ross says hes prepared to fund the majority of costs for the proposed improvements. His plan for modernizing Sun Life Stadium and his commitment to the citizens of Miami-Dade County include: no tax increase for county residents; the creation of 4,000 jobs for local contractors, subcontractors and vendors; the creation of a world-class facility with improved sight lines and seats closer to the field; an electric environment for the Dolphins, Hurricanes, bowl games and international soccer; and the securing of the franchise by committing the Dolphins to play at a modernized Sun Life Stadium through at least 2034. Ross added that he is willing to make the initial and most substantial investment [at least 51 percent] in the project. Dolphins CEO Mike Dee spoke with The Miami Times about what happens next. The jobs were talking about would not be for subcontractors coming from other states they would be for local workers, he said. And we are committed to working with the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce and Bill Diggs [president/CEO] to make sure that Blacks get their fair share. In terms of the Dolphins, we have a good hiring record as it relates to people of color and we are keenly aware of the need for balance in terms of minority employees. When asked about whether those with prison records would be eligible for jobs, Dee said he thought it was a bit premature to answer the question, adding that the guidelines of contractors and subcontractors would help to shape the qualifications.

Who will really foot the bill?

Dee explains that the proposal is based on a private/public partnership and emphasized that it would not follow the process that was taken by another team in South Florida. The public funding that the Dolphins hope to receive would come from a one percent increase in the hotel bed tax for mainland Miami-Dade and is estimated to generate in excess of $10 million a year. They also hope to get a $3 million annual state sales tax rebate for 30 years [pending approval by the Florida Legislature]. The 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl will take place during the 2015-2016 season and we are one of two finalists for that game, he said. That will also mark the 50th anniversary of the Dolphins. Unlike other teams our owner is committed to remaining in our current location and making sure that we can compete with other venues. When the Super Bowl Committee meets on May 22 we want to have everything in place so that we have the best chance of being selected. Understand that there is a real ripple effect in terms of jobs when you get an event the magnitude of the Super Bowl. Just look at what happened recently during the BCS Bowl. Dee and Ross will have their hands full in the next eight weeks. Theyll need the support of the State Legislature and the Miami-Dade County Commission. In addition, they will need to continue to work on their master plan and fine tune the bid for the Super Bowl Committee. Dee says its going to be an around-the-clock initiative but that he feels good about the outcome. As for the Legislature, State Senator Oscar Braynon II, whose District 36 encompasses Miami Gardens, the home of Sun Life Stadium, says he believes the Dolphins have proposed a winning proposition. Its our turn now to reap the benefits, he said. The irony is that when bed taxes were used for other communities, no one seemed to oppose the construction. The American Airlines Arena is a perfect example. Our local taxpayers would not be impacted at all the dollars would come from tourists who come to South Florida and stay in hotels. The Dolphins also pay more taxes than any other business in Miami Gardens and theyre the number one employer. What we have here is an economic engine and it makes good sense. I think anyone that opposes the plan is bordering on economic racism. There are a few things I want to ensure in terms of the proposal and the legislation but I see this as a real win-win for our community and the Dolphins. When we contacted Diggs, whom Dee said would be instrumental in directing job opportunities to Blacks in South Florida, his assistant informed us that he had no comment. By Kevin McNeir kmcneir@miamitimesonline.com