MIAMI GARDENS — City officials in Miami Gardens, home to the Miami Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium, have laid out two key demands for any agreement on the renovation of the sports facility.
The city is asking that any accord reached must maintain the same amount of revenue which it currently receives from the stadium’s property taxes and that a public hearing take place with Miami Gardens residents.
The demands come on the heels of reports that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has reversed himself and is willing to foot the estimated $400 million bill to upgrade the stadium, in exchange for not having to pay property taxes.
No firm details have been announced but any agreement will likely transfer ownership of the stadium to the county in lieu of paying between $2 million and $4 million in property taxes.
Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert set out the city’s position in a statement Wednesday saying that “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.”
Gilbert also stated that any plans for the stadium renovations “should be vetted openly through the public hearing process with Miami Gardens residents.”
The proposed upgrades would help keep Sun Life competitive in bidding for Super Bowls and championship college football games.
Ross, a billionaire, was stymied last year in his efforts to secure public money for the renovations.
Some reports have said he is willing to hand over management of the stadium to the county, probably similar to arrangements with the Miami Heat and the Miami Marlins, in exchange for the tax breaks.
Ross has discussed his proposal with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who said in a statement that obstacles to a deal remain.
“We agree that, unless renovations are made to Sun Life Stadium, Miami-Dade County will lose the opportunity to host another Super Bowl,” Gimenez said in the statement. “Mr. Ross’ proposal is better than last year’s. However, there are still hurdles that the Dolphins organization must overcome before I feel comfortable with the proposal.”
There were no indications what those hurdles are.
The renovations would include building a partial canopy to shade seats that are now exposed, installing new seats and moving others closer to the field and upgrading the club level.
Rodney Barreto, chairman of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee, applauded Ross’ change of heart and said the owner’s request for property tax relief was reasonable.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Barreto said. “It’s fantastic and unprecedented. Mr. Ross is stepping up big-time. The guy is going to write a $400 million check. This puts us back into contention, no doubt.”
The NFL declined to comment.
Ross, 73, is a New York real estate developer with an estimated net worth of $5.4 billion. But last year the Dolphins said stadium upgrades were impossible without public money, because they were heavily in debt and one of the NFL’s most-leveraged teams.
When Ross sought up to $379 million in county and state money for the project, his proposal was rejected by the Legislature. That removed South Florida from contention for the 50th Super Bowl.
There was local resistance to using tax money for the upgrades, in part because many South Floridians remain upset about the public financing of the Miami Marlins’ ballpark which opened two years ago.
The region has hosted the Super Bowl 10 times, most recently in 2010, and league owners love the destination. But the 27-year-old multipurpose stadium made it difficult for Miami-Dade to compete with more modern NFL stadiums for the title game.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the upgrades would keep the stadium in contention for Super Bowls.
“My conversations with Roger Goodell were, ‘You’ve got to stay competitive. The stadium needs to be upgraded. You’re competing against billion-dollar stadiums,’” Barreto said.
Joe Robbie built the stadium with his own money for $115 million and another former owner, Wayne Huizenga, spent $250 million on renovations in 2007.