As the county commission meets today to consider a proposed deal to renovate Sun Life Stadium, news comes that the NFL has decided to chip in $150 million of the estimated $480 million it would cost to Flip This House, leaving the county and the Dolphins with $350 million to cover. The deal also includes a clause that would cancel any local taxpayer funding if the Dolphins are not awarded Super Bowl L or LI.
There's a consensus building that this is a significantly less taxpayer-face-punching of a deal than the Marlins Park catastrophe, considering the team would end up covering 70 percent of the snazzy refurbishing. But given the Fish's ongoing meltdown, will voters be on board for even that more modest contribution to a sports franchise?
The deal would leave Stephen Ross $41 million shy of his promised $191 million contribution of the total cost, and the team would also pony up $170 million in rebates over the next 30 years.
So what happens if Ross fixes up Sun Life and then decides to sell the team and the stadium for a profit? (Which is exactly the kind of bait-and-switch that some observers predict Jeffrey Loria will pull in two years, when he won't have to share any profits with the city.)
This deal would force Ross to pay Dade a penalty of $20 million. (And you thought overdraft fees sucked!) Also included in the deal, at least 50 percent of the construction workers employed must be from Miami-Dade, with 5 percent of those from Miami Gardens, where the stadium is located. As for the referendum, the team would cover the cost of the vote, which is estimated at $4.8 million -- or about 1.3 seasons of Matt Moore.
County Mayor Carlos Gimenez made sure to include in the deal that if the stadium revenue falls short of projections, the team is on the hook for the entirety of the NFL loan. The county, meanwhile, plans to provide the Dolphins with $7.5 million a year in renovation funds. All of this hinges on the voters giving the OK to raising the hotel tax from 6 to 7 percent on May 14, assuming the commission approves a public vote today.
The deal also includes some big-time "you lied" fees. The team can be fined up to $120 million if it does not deliver on its promise of major events, such as BCS Championship games or World Cup Finals.
In the end, Gov. Rick Scott still has to be down with the deal, but he seems pretty chipper at the moment, saying, "I like the fact that the Dolphins are putting a lot of [the club's] money up... I like the fact they're committing to stay. I like the fact that there's a referendum."
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The deal as a whole looks and feels a lot different from the nightmare that was the Marlins deal, and that's not an accident. Mayor Gimenez has been outspoken about his disgust over the prior deal -- and in fact was largely elected thanks to his no-vote on that particular package. Though the Marlins left the city with little to no way to keep the team honest in the future, this Dolphins deal seems to have many spankings and timeouts written into it.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me?
Still, it's anyone's guess whether voters will be down with even spending another dime of tax money on a stadium project while the Marlins continue drawing abysmal crowds and generally embarrassing the national pastime down in Little Havana.