Stadium Funding Loyalty May Force Dolphins To Favor Miami-Dade Over Broward

Jan 25, 2013

TEAM LOYALTY: Miami-Dade is OK with helping the Dolphins renovate Sun Life Stadium. What does that mean for the team's relationship with Broward County?

Miami-Dade commissioners on Thursday voted to get behind state legislation that would provide nearly $200 million in public funding to Sun Life Stadium renovations sought by the Miami Dolphins.

If all goes as planned, the Florida Legislature will approve a package of sales tax and hotel bed tax revenue that the team will match to proceed with their $400 million stadium-improvement project.

A squad of top-flight lobbyists will be sent to Tallahassee to make the legislation happen. Meanwhile, Mayor Carlos Gimenez will negotiate with the Dolphins.  He told the Miami Herald he will not be pushed around:

“If the public is going to be investing money via a bed tax — which is tourist money, but still public money — then what are we going to be getting in return? Why should we be investing public money into the enterprise?” Gimenez said. “I know we’re not going to put the general fund at risk in any way, shape or form. There’s not going to be any fancy financing.”

His administration will likely hire outside consultants with expertise in negotiating with professional sports teams, the mayor added.

Broward County is watching closely, fearful that Miami-Dade's generosity may cost it its relationship with the Dolphins and its role in any future Super Bowls that are awarded to Miami.

The concern is that the newly-beholden Dolphins would move their training facility out of the Broward County town of Davie to somewhere in Miami-Dade County and that Broward would be left out of the competition to become the "urban core" of the Super Bowl, either in 2016 or 2017.

The Sun Sentinel has been talking to the people who will make that "urban core" decision:

Rodney Barreto, chairman of the bid committee, indicated that the endorsement Miami-Dade gave this week to the stadium project could swing the decision in favor of Miami.

"[Dolphins owner] Steve Ross has made it pretty clear to me that he is dependent on Dade County to partner up with him, and if they do so that he is going to do everything as an owner to make sure that these things are in the core of Miami. I can't blame him," Barreto said. "Super Bowls are awarded to communities, not to the Dolphins. But we are tied at the hip."

The team has a lease on its Nova Southeastern University training facility through 2022. Team CEO Mike Dee says the Dolphins like the facility, but stadium funding developments could put "everything on the table."

Apparently, the Dolphins have not forgotten Broward's brusque "Hell, no!" response to their request for stadium renovation funding in 2011. That refusal followed the 2010 Super Bowl from which Broward County profited immensely -- even more than Miami-Dade in terms of direct spending ($57.6 million versus $39.6 million).

But Broward's top tourism official, Nicki Grossman, doubts that Broward could be completely cut out of Super Bowl participation, no matter what grudges the Dolphins may still carry.

"Broward has been on the periphery of the urban core of Super Bowls in the past. We have done financially very well, and I'm sure that will be the case again," Grossman, who also has a seat on Barreto's bid committee, told the Sun-Sentinel.