Miami-Dade County has three major sports teams and a fourth is in Broward County, so major league sports is a big deal in South Florida.
The teams play, we attend the games or we watch them on television, the owners make hundreds of millions of dollars for providing us with this form of entertainment and the players make tens of millions of dollars.
That is how it should be. The team owners give us the games and through our support their wealth becomes even greater. Just how much more support our community should give is once again being hotly debated because South Florida Stadium LLC, which owns Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens and is home of the Miami Dolphins, is asking for tax dollars to help pay for upgrades to the facility.
The proposal approved by the Miami-Dade County Commission and expected to be vetted by the Legislature this week calls for a penny increase in the hotel bed tax to be given to the stadium owners as a very long-term loan of which less than half will be repaid. Voters will decide its fate in a referendum on May 14. There are specifics about this deal that can be outlined but there is no need. The fact is that no part of tax revenue should be given to a for-profit entity that is owned by a very wealthy man.
That the money will come from a tax to be paid by tourists and not from the county’s general revenues is irrelevant. The hotel bed tax does have designated uses but if there is to be any added income, it should have the effect of freeing up more dollars to benefit residents of the county, not be yet another source of corporate welfare at a time when there is not enough money to take care of the least among us.
The promise of jobs and ancillary benefits is attractive bait but that should not be allowed to obscure the fact that money will be taken from the state through the elimination of tax breaks for Miami’s foreign banks and possibly reducing jobs, and from a county that has at least two of the poorest cities in the nation, and given to an entity whose primary owner is a billionaire.
Let them take a page out of the playbook of Joe Robbie, who raised private money for the $100 million he needed to build the stadium in the first place. Alternatively, when for-profit businesses seek to expand, they should get loans that are fully repaid with interest or seek partners who are allowed to profit-share.
So let South Florida Stadium LLC get the money they are asking for – on condition that they make the county part-owner of the stadium so revenues can be shared equitably and residents can benefit from a genuine partnership.
That will not happen, so the South Florida Times recommends a No vote on the referendum.