Gimenez wants more from Dolphins for stadium

Published On: Feb 11 2013 11:22:31 AM EST
Updated On: Feb 11 2013 05:53:44 PM EST
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COURTESY: Miami Dolphins

MIAMI -

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez says he wants Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to pay more toward Sun Life Stadium's modernization plan.

Gimenez held a news conference Monday morning with Dolphins chief executive officer Mike Dee to discuss the proposal.

"If the deal does come out, the voters of Miami-Dade County will have the final say," said Gimenez.

Ross pledged to spend $200 million toward the $400 million plan, which includes state-of-the art HD video screens, HD lighting, more comfortable seats, and new seating closer to the field.

"He started at 51. That's great," Gimenez said. "I don't believe we're going to end up at 51 percent."

A referendum is risky for the Dolphins because many South Floridians remain upset about the public financing of the Miami Marlins' ballpark, which opened a year ago.

"The Dolphins have shown to be a lot different than the previous organization we dealt with," said Gimenez, who opposed the Marlins project. "The Marlins — that's the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Let's say what it is. That was a bad deal, and a lot of things were kept in the dark. I don't deal that way. I'm sure the Dolphins don't deal that way."

Gimenez said he also wants an opt-out clause as part of any deal using tax dollars for the stadium renovation plan so the county can void the deal if the NFL gives Super Bowl L to the San Francisco 49ers instead of the Dolphins.

"I'm saying that may be a point of the negotiations, okay? We're not going to negotiate in public, but I'm telling you that's certainly something I'll be looking for," he said.

Should the measure pass, Gimenez said, county commissioners still ought to have final approval — and insist on assurances from the NFL that the city will host the 50th Super Bowl in 2016.

"I don't want to be eligible for things," Gimenez said. "I want to actually land something."

Some of the money would come from raising the bed taxes in Miami-Dade County from 6 to 7 percent and a $3 million sales tax rebate from the state. Florida legislators will decide whether the bed taxes are raised.

"If the state legislature doesn't make the rule changes or the law changes, than this is moot. There is no public referendum because there is no deal," said Gimenez.

"No new taxes for Miami-Dade County residents and a pledge by Stephen Ross and the Dolphins to fund the majority of the funds with private funding. These are messages that clearly resonate that makes us confident to take it to voters," said Dee.

Dee said polls done by the team show they have support for using tax dollars to pay for some of the renovations.

Gimenez added that a special election would cost the county up to $4 million. He said a deal must be reached by mid-March so commissioners can vote on a referendum before it's presented to voters.

"This is about Super Bowl 50," Dee said, "the biggest event, frankly, in NFL history."

The NFL is scheduled to announce who will host Super Bowl L on May 22. A packet detailing what the NFL wants from a team hosting the game has so far been kept private.

Last month, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted in favor of using tax dollars to pay for improvements at the stadium. And last week, a Florida Senate panel unanimously approved a measure (SB 306) that would guarantee $3 million a year for the next 30 years to help pay for stadium upgrades.

"This legislative proposal was sprung on us with very little time to evaluate it," said State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami), who also issued a statement about the deal.

The Dolphins had previously resisted a referendum, saying there wasn't time to hold a vote before the site for Super Bowl 50 was decided. But local legislators have shown only tepid support, and the Dolphins now believe referendum approval would help their chances in Tallahassee.

"Our harshest critics have said the voters need to weigh in," Dee said. "We support that."

Miami has hosted the Super Bowl 10 times, most recently in 2010. The Dolphins and the NFL say stadium upgrades are needed to keep the city competitive in bidding for future Super Bowl.

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