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Pressure builds Miami Gardens makes stadium demands

Erick Johnson | 3/20/2014, 9 a.m.

Pressure is mounting in Miami Gardens over the proposed Sun Stadium deal as Mayor Gilbert issued strong demands to business and county leaders to help keep millions of dollars in revenue in his city.

Gilbert is seeking to keep $1 million in annual property tax revenues Miami Gardens receives from the stadium. But that amount remains in jeopardy as county leaders consider transferring the stadium to tax

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Oliver Gilbert

exempt status in exchange for Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ efforts to privately fund $350 million renovations that includes adding a roof to the ageing structure.

Ross said the renovations are necessary to lure another Superbowl and maintain participation in the lucrative college football championship playoff series. County leaders so far support the proposal, but have not yet made a final decision on it. If passed, Miami Gardens will lose Sun Life stadium as its largest taxpayer, whose tax dollars make up 3.5 percent of the city’s tax base.

The deal would also waive $2 million to $4 million in property taxes for Ross.

Dolphin officials have promised to come up with a payment plan to Miami Gardens to make up for the loss, but Ross has warned last week that his team may move if his renovation plans fail.

The fate of those plans may fall in the hands of Gilbert, who also wants Miami Gardens to benefit from the deal. Last week, he took offense of not being included on the proposed talks before the news was announced in the media. Concerned about his city being overlooked, the mayor made clear his demands before giving his

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Stephen Ross

stamp of approval on the deal.

Gilbert wants the deal to maintain the same amount of revenue the city receives from the stadium’s property taxes. He also wants the issue to be “vetted openly” and asks for a public hearing to draw resident’s input and feedback on the deal.

In a statement to The Miami Times, Gilbert said “the starting point of any dialogue between the county and the Dolphins regarding this matter be that the city of Miami Gardens continues to receive revenues at a level that represents what the city would receive from property taxes” on the stadium “without regard to ownership of the franchise or conveyance of the property.”

Sun Life stadium falls within the boundaries of District 1 Commissioner Barbara Jordan, whose been publicly silent on the issue since proposal was made last week. Jordan could apply more pressure on county leaders to ensure Miami Gardens and her constituents’ financial needs are protected.

Efforts to reach Jordan were unsuccessful. The Times left email and phone messages seeking comment for this story.

But County Mayor Carolos Gimenez has said his support for the proposed deal hinges on Ross’s proposal to meet the needs of Miami Gardens and the Miami-Dade Public School system, which may also lose money if the deal goes through.

Outside pressure may also come from Miami-Dade libraries, who are already under orders to cut back on spending even it means staff layoffs.

The proposed deal is the latest by Ross, whose net worth is estimated to be at least $5.4 billion dollars. Last year, Ross made an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Tallahassee lawmakers to place a hotel tax to fund stadium renovations on a referendum for voters to decide in a special election. That bid failed leaving NFL officials to award the 2016 Superbowl to San Francisco.

If passed, Sun Life Stadium would join Marlins Stadium and The American Airlines Arena as a publicly-owned sports venues.