South Florida Sun-Sentinel'
Dolphins look for Broward aid to renovate Sun Life Stadium stadium
By Scott Wyman, Sun Sentinel
9:07 PM EST, January 5, 2011
The Miami Dolphins want Broward County to share its tourism tax revenue to help pay for a $225 million renovation to its stadium in Miami-Dade.
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee has been meeting with area hoteliers, business executives and tourism officials to pitch the idea of rewriting state law to allow Broward to spend its tax money outside the county. The Dolphins argue that Broward has benefited heavily from past Super Bowls at the Miami-Dade venue and that a new stadium would help ensure their return in the future.
Broward played host to the Super Bowl headquarters in 2010. That game, along with the subsequent Pro Bowl, generated $333 million for South Florida businesses. Dee said a renovated stadium could add about $2.5 billion to the South Florida economy through 2040.
"This is a community decision," said Dee, who publicly unveiled the idea in a speech Wednesday at a Miami chamber of commerce lunch. "This is about the ability to continue to bring big-time events to the community."
Although South Florida has been home to both the 2010 and the 2007 Super Bowls, the chance at more games has been in doubt because of the condition of the 23-year-old Sun Life Stadium. NFL officials have made clear that while they enjoyed the area's amenities, that is not enough to return. Newer and fancier venues have been chosen for future games.
The Dolphins last year unveiled plans for a renovated stadium that include a partial roof over the seating area and seats closer to the action. But after spending $300 million on stadium upgrades over the past six years, the team has maintained that it cannot make the investment by itself.
Broward County commissioners, who control the tax dollars that tourists pay to stay at hotels, reacted skeptically to the Dolphins proposal. Broward and Miami-Dade have flirted with cooperation on sports venues before to no avail.
Commissioners said that Broward has many needs of its own for the tax dollars, which already go to promote tourism and pay for the debt on the construction of the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise. The tax money has been a key feature of plans to both expand the Broward County Convention Center and build a nearby hotel for convention-goers.
"There would have to be a lot of sweetener in the pot before I would even think about it," Broward Mayor Suzanne Gunzburger said.
Commissioner Lois Wexler said she opposes any additional use of tourism dollars to support professional sports teams. Meanwhile, Commissioner John Rodstrom, one of the primary architects behind the construction of the BankAtlantic Center, said he would want to see a significant sharing of revenue or taxation from the stadium in order consider a deal — even suggesting that the county line be moved to split the stadium.
"I'm willing to listen to any plan, but you have to put it into the context of the dollars that come out of it," Rodstrom said. "We're being asked to fund a stadium that is not in our county. We all recognize how important the Super Bowl is, and it would be good if we could get it every couple years. But we also have other needs in Broward."
The Dolphins have sought Miami-Dade hotel taxes for at least a year, but had not previously included Broward tax money in the plan. In another significant shift, Dee also is pledging Dolphins financial support for a stadium renovation.
Dee said the Dolphins want to pursue legislation that would allow counties to increase the hotel tax from the current maximum of 6 cents to 7 cents. The plan would then be for Miami-Dade to split its increased tax revenue between the stadium renovations and a rehab of its convention center. Broward currently charges a 5-cent hotel tax and also would be allowed to raise it and spend proceeds outside its jurisdiction.
The Dolphins plan is dividing the region's business community.
The head of the Greater Miami tourism bureau has not endorsed it, and city commissioners in Miami Beach have voted to oppose public funding for the football stadium. Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, the operators of the BankAtlantic Center, issued a strong statement Wednesday opposing the plan as well.
In his statement, Sunrise Sports president Michael Yormark said he believes the Dolphins intend to turn their stadium into a multipurpose entertainment facility that would then compete with his venue. "So their request is, in effect, to use Broward County tax dollars to help a privately owned Miami-Dade facility compete with a publicly owned facility in Broward County," he said.
Broward tourism czar Nicki Grossman, though, described the Dolphins proposal as tantalizing if it means Miami-Dade lands future Super Bowls. She said Broward hoteliers did the "lion's share" of business associated with the Super Bowl, and that the Dolphins training camp at Nova Southeastern University in Davie also pumps at least $15 million into the Broward economy.
Grossman, the president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Broward hoteliers want Super Bowl 2015 in South Florida and that she understands that "in order to get a Super Bowl, the stadium has to be a major player.''
"What they need is a reason for Broward County to get into this game," Grossman said. "My reach into the hotel community says that our hoteliers really want to continue to be Super Bowl hosts, and Pro Bowl hosts."
Staff writer Brittany Wallman, Pro Sports Editor Joe Schwerdt and the Miami Herald contributed to this report.
Ron Book is the lobbyist hired by Stephen Ross and the Dolphins on this Quixotic effort to fleece Broward County taxpayers.
Anyone who saw the embarrassing video 11 months ago of Greater FTL tourism czarina Nicki Grossman reacting to New York City being awarded the 2014 Super Bowl over South Florida and other candidate cities, knows what sort of silly sycophant she is for any corporate interest who'll tell her what she wants to hear.
In my opinion, she's an old-fashioned shill for hire.
When someone actually stumbled into telling the truth for a change about what happened in January, i.e. that the fix was in for NYC to be awarded the game, and that person was the Chair of South Florida's effort, influential Rodney Barretto,
predictably, Nicki Grossman acted just like the corporate puppet she is, and actually criticized HIM, not the shell-game that was perpetrated on them by the NFL at taxpayer's expense.
I know, I know, you don't have to tell me.
You're hoping for a snowy Super Bowl three years hence, too!