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Dolphins close to a stadium renovation “deal”


The Miami Dolphins are closing in on agreement with Miami-Dade County regarding upgrades at Sun Life Stadium. But the final deal will hardly reflect the terms the team initially envisioned.

Last year, the Dolphins wanted to get public money to help pay for renovations that would put South Florida back in the Super Bowl rotation. The effort to increase a local hotel/motel tax failed. Miserably.

Then, the Dolphins wanted real estate tax credits for the land occupied by the stadium and parking lots, in exchange for upgrades privately funded by owner Stephen Ross. Again, the effort failed. Miserably.

The end result, as Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giminez explained to CBS Miami, entails certain grants/incentives that will be made available if/when Ross lures the Super Bowl and similar attractions to town with renovations he pays for out of his own very deep pockets.

"[If he brings certain marquee events in, we could give him grants for bringing that in,” Gimenez said. “But the grants are much smaller than the economic impact of that event.”

The economic impact of events like the Super Bowl remain debatable, especially in light of all the richest-get-richer stuff that an interested city must offer in order to have a chance at landing the event.

The incentives/grants to the Dolphins would consist of a chunk of the money generated by tourist taxes. CBS Miami estimates that, for example, the Dolphins would get $4 million if the Super Bowl returns to town.

“You’re pretty close,” Giminez said about the estimate, “but I’m not going to say what that is because we haven’t finalized those negotiations yet, but they are pretty close to being final.”

The deal would include an annual cap, which as a practical matter would give the Dolphins an incentive to space out the events. If too many happen in one year, the Dolphins quickly will reach the point of not diminishing but disappearing returns.

Ultimately, the perks for Miami have diminished greatly over what the team had wanted. The lesson for the other 31 teams is that significant public money comes only when there’s a real chance that the franchise will be disappearing to a new city.