Miami Dolphins management on Monday trumpeted the team's $400 million quest to renovate Sun Life Stadium, and while they say they'll pay for most of it, they will ask for some state help.
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said the team will ask lawmakers to provide a $3 million a year tax rebate on sales of merchandise at the stadium, in Miami Gardens north of the city. Team officials said they will also ask the Legislature to pass a bill that would allow Miami-Dade County to raise its tourist bed tax from 6 percent to 7 percent on mainland hotels in Miami.
Meanwhile, Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, filed a bill (HB 165) Monday that appears would help. It would allow local option tourist development taxes to used to pay the debt service on "professional sport franchise renovation facilities," defined as stadiums seeking to upgrade that have been the home to a team for at least 20 years. The Dolphins have played in the stadium, formerly known as Pro-Player and Joe Robbie, since 1987.
Currently the tax can be used improvements aimed at luring new teams, or retaining spring training franchises.
The bill spells out that tourist development taxes could only be used to pay for renovations if those fixes will cost more than $250 million, and that at least half the cost must be picked up by the team owners or other private sources.
Team officials in Miami showed off plans for a $100 million canopy to shield fans from sun and rain. Like other recent NFL venue upgrades, the plan calls for closer seating, more suites and other amenities.
The renovation is necessary, backers say, to accommodate not only the Dolphins, but the University of Miami, the college football Orange Bowl, the Super Bowl, professional soccer games and other events.
The Florida Marlins, a Major League Baseball franchise, played their games at Sun Life until March 2012 following construction of Marlin Park in Miami, a $634 million facility.
"My goal is to secure the future of Miami-Dade and the Dolphins so we can remain a global competitor for sports and entertainment for at least another 25 years," Dolphins owners Stephen Ross said in a statement. "That's why I'm willing to make the initial and most substantial investment in this project."
Since 1991, Florida has offered sales tax rebates to professional sports franchises. Last year, the state paid professional franchises about $24 million in re-directed sales tax.