Broward County could become a bit player as a Super Bowl host if the Miami Dolphins receive financial support for stadium improvements from Miami-Dade County.
The Dolphins would even consider moving their training facility from Davie to somewhere south of the county line if Miami-Dade helps fund renovations to Sun Life Stadium that could cost $400 million, team CEO Mike Dee said Thursday.
The Dolphins will ask the committee preparing the bid for the 50th Super Bowl in 2016 to designate downtown Miami as the focal point for activities during the week of the game. NFL owners will vote in May to award that game as well as the 2017 Super Bowl.
"If Miami-Dade is going to be our partner, participating with the stadium [funding], it seems sensible and fair that Miami-Dade County would have the first shot at all of those events that are controlled within the NFL bid package," Dee said.
Broward and Miami-Dade are vying to serve as the so-called urban core if one of those Super Bowls is awarded to South Florida. Rodney Barreto, chairman of the bid committee, indicated that the endorsement Miami-Dade gave this week to the stadium project could swing the decision in favor of Miami.
"[Dolphins owner] Steve Ross has made it pretty clear to me that he is dependent on Dade County to partner up with him, and if they do so that he is going to do everything as an owner to make sure that these things are in the core of Miami. I can't blame him," Barreto said. "Super Bowls are awarded to communities, not to the Dolphins. But we are tied at the hip."
Ross has vowed to pay more than half the cost of a 22-part project to modernize the stadium, including the addition of a canopy roof that would cover seating areas.
Miami-Dade Commissioners approved a resolution by a 9-4 vote Wednesday to support a bill in the state legislature for a 1 percent hike in the Miami-Dade tourist tax and a $3 million-a-year tax rebate on stadium sales for the stadium project. Dee said if approval comes during the upcoming legislative session, construction could begin as soon as this summer.
Nicki Grossman, Broward's top tourism official, downplayed the importance of the urban core issue to Broward's role as Super Bowl host.
"Broward has been on the periphery of the urban core of Super Bowls in the past. We have done financially very well, and I'm sure that will be the case again," Grossman said.
Grossman, who serves on the bid committee, said the amount of money Broward commits to the bid will depend on the county receiving an equitable return.
"Broward County is going to get a number of events Super Bowl-related regardless of where the urban core is. This is going to be a South Florida Super Bowl," she said.
The vehement rebuff by Broward County Commissioners when tourist tax money was sought in 2011 for stadium renovations still rings in Dee's ears. A proposed bill would have made it legally possible for Broward to spend tourist tax dollars outside the county, and it needed support from Broward officials. Commissioners used terms including "vile" and "shameful," and one commissioner flatly stated, "No. Hell no."
Dee said that is the reason the Dolphins are making their pitch only to Miami-Dade this time.
"I think the Broward County Commission spoke loudly and in very descriptive terms about how they felt about any dialogue," Dee said.
That occurred a year after Broward received the lion's share of economic benefit from the 10th Super Bowl staged in South Florida. The media headquarters was based at the Broward Convention Center and one of the teams was based in the county.
Although Barreto said that Broward, Palm Beach and other counties will receive a tourism boost regardless of where most Super Bowl activities are centered, Dee made it clear that Broward's stand on stadium improvements remains a sore subject.
"I know a lot of Broward hoteliers who thoroughly enjoyed what took place here in 2010," Dee said. "I think there will be enough to go around. Everybody will get to benefit. But I'm sure if the urban core does move south there will be some folks here that will miss that."
According to an economic impact study of the 2010 Super Bowl, Broward realized direct spending of $57.6 million compared with $39.6 million in Miami-Dade and $12.2 million in Palm Beach.
Broward also got a significant tourism boost from the recent BCS Championship, which brought 30,000 visitors to county and direct spending of $25 million, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Under the new college football playoff system, cities will bid on hosting future championship games in a process similar to the way Super Bowls are awarded. That is cited as another reason for the need for stadium improvements.
The possibility of the Dolphins moving their training facility surfaced during Wednesday's discussion on the stadium project by the Miami-Dade commission. The Dolphins have a lease to remain at Nova Southeastern through 2022.
"We love our relationship at Nova Southeastern. They're great partners; it's been a great facility. Until [Wednesday] our expectation was we would be there forever," Dee said. "I think we need to study it. Everything is on the table."
Another possible funding source Ross could tap into is the NFL's G4 loan program that the league makes available for stadium projects which also include an infusion of public money. The San Francisco 49ers are using it to help fund their $1.2 billion stadium under construction in Santa Clara, Calif.
"There is one component that may have the NFL contributing, but it's small," Dee said. "It is financing. It's something the franchise would ... have to reimburse over time."
There is opposition in Miami-Dade to public funding for the Dolphins' stadium project, most vocally from auto dealer Norman Braman, a former NFL owner who sued unsuccessfully in an attempt to block the Miami Marlins' ballpark deal. Several prominent Miami hotels have expressed support for the increase in the bed tax for the Dolphins' project. That would raise the tourist tax for mainland Miami-Dade to 7 percent, equal to that already in effect for Miami Beach.
Public backlash about financing for Marlins Park is a roadblock the Dolphins must overcome. They argue that Ross is willing to pay a greater share of the Sun Life Stadium project and that the community will benefit through hosting Super Bowls, college football championships and world-class soccer events in addition to keeping the stadium viable for the Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes.
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