Next month, voters in Miami-Dade County will determine the fate of a proposed renovation to Sun Life Stadium. If more who show up at the polls check “yes” than “no,” tax rates for local hotels will increase from six percent to seven percent, and up to $289 million in public money would be devoted to the project over the next 26 years.
The Dolphins will be making plenty of concessions in return, including a 30-year commitment to South Florida.
The Miami Herald breaks down the key terms of the 80-page agreement between the team and county. But there’s one important term on which the public powers-that-be should have insisted.
If/when owner Stephen Ross sells the Dolphins and the stadium in which they play, Ross necessarily will receive more money than he otherwise would have gotten, thanks to the ability to hand off to the next owner an improved stadium that has returned to the Super Bowl rotation. A slice of that profit, whatever it may be, fairly should go back to Miami-Dade County. (As written, the deal merely requires payment of a $20 million “penalty” by Ross, if he sells within the next five years. That’s less than seven percent of the total public contribution.)
Sharing in sale profits represents the easiest path around the ban on giving partial ownership of the team to a public body. The value of the franchise necessarily will increase as a result of the investment of taxpayer money. When Ross cashes out, a fair piece of the cash pie should go back to the taxpayers.
In theory, other terms in the deal between the Dolphins and Miami-Dade County will ensure that the citizens receive fair return on the investment of money that largely will be paid by visitors to the area, in the form of higher hotel bills. But it would make much more sense for those making a major capital investment in the franchise and its stadium to get a slice of the proceeds coming from the inevitable sale of the assets that taxpayer money will be making more valuable.
While it’s too late for Miami-Dade County to include that term in the Dolphins’ deal, public entities that are being squeezed for taxpayer money in the future should make the case for sharing in the enhanced profits that the taxpayer money will eventually help the local NFL owner realize.