The Miami Marlins swindled local taxpayers out of nearly $500 million while lying about team finances. The Miami Heat cook their books every year to pretend American Airlines Arena -- home to the world's greatest basketball team -- still isn't profitable enough to pay rent to taxpayers.
So as perpetually mediocre Dolphins owner Stephen Ross prepares to ask Dade today to pick up some of the tab for $400 million in renovations at Sun Life Stadium, the real question is why the hell would anyone believe his pitch?
Ross plans to argue that the Dolphins are a "different kind of fish," Armando Salguero reports today, drawing a clear distinction between his football team and the larcenous Marlins.
He'll stress that he's willing to pay for the bulk of renovations -- which would include a partial roof and redoing some seating -- if the government picks up the tab of running Sun Life. And he'll hammer home that the cash will come from bed taxes, which are leveled on tourists not residents, and are earmarked for improvements at tourist attractions like Sun Life.
Salguero, who looks set to play the same Miami Herald toady role Greg Cote happily took on the Marlins Park, persuasively outlines this carrot from the kindly owner.
But then he dangles the big stick: The team might leave South Florida otherwise!
"The Dolphins, unlike practically all other NFL teams, currently have no lease holding them to their home stadium and thus their hometown," Salguero writes. "So basically, nothing is tying the Dolphins to South Florida other than tradition and ownership."
Oh NOES! The Fins are totally going to move to Albuquerque unless taxpayers agree to millions in local funds going to help out a private business that is part of the most profitable sports league in the universe.
Truth is, Salguero is right: On its face, the Dolphins request is nowhere near as offensive as the Marlins' daylight armed robbery.
But is that really the best benchmark to decide whether continuing to pour millions in public cash into sports franchises is good policy? For decades now, team owners have exploited the emotional ties between the public and their franchises to extort ever more cash.
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Study after study shows that the impact of new stadiums on local economies is negligible, because visitors spend cash at the all-inclusive parks that they would have otherwise spent at smaller local businesses.
But the Fins say they need $400 million in renovations to stay in town, and Miami loves the Dolphins so in the end they'll probably find a way to get this deal done. Everyone is happy, for the moment, until the next team decides they can't possibly survive without millions more in handouts.