MIAMI GARDENS — Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross unveiled a plan Monday to modernize Sun Life Stadium, promising to personally cover the majority of the $400 million estimated cost of the project.
The rest would come from tax dollars and that would likely need approval from both state and local lawmakers. Ross said that any public dollars for the project would not result in higher taxes for residents of Miami-Dade County.
Instead, the Dolphins are looking for a slightly higher hotel tax in the county, as well as a larger state sales-tax rebate. In return, the Dolphins say the deal would keep them in South Florida through at least 2034, though stopping short of saying that not getting public money would jeopardize the franchise’s future.
“There’s only a limited amount of capital you can put into something,” Ross said, when asked why the Dolphins aren’t choosing to fund the entire project.
The Dolphins’ hope is to keep the stadium an attractive destination for major events such as Super Bowls — the game’s 50th installment will come after the 2015 season — and college football’s championship games.
They plan to add about 3,600 new seats closer to the field, improved amenities and a canopy roof that would shield fans from the elements of South Florida’s often harsh weather while preserving a natural grass playing surface.
These plans are not entirely new. When the Miami area lost in the voting to host the 2014 Super Bowl, local tourism officials were even talking then about things like more seats, better sight lines and a 621,000-square-foot roof which many then called an “umbrella,” perhaps still mindful of the scene
in February 2007 when fans ran for cover as strong rain came down during the Indianapolis-Chicago title game.
The notion of asking for public money comes at a particularly thorny time in South Florida, where many residents were outraged at the deal the Miami Marlins got for their new ballpark.
Two of South Florida’s major hotels, the Loews Miami Beach and the InterContinental Miami, released statements Monday supporting the Dolphins’ plans regarding the stadium.
The Dolphins said the construction deal would result in the creation of about 4,000 jobs, bring international soccer events to the stadium regularly and create a more comfortable environment for fans.
Other amenity improvements would include better lighting and scoreboards.
*Pictured above is Stephen Ross.