What happens if Dolphins stadium referendum fails?


The Miami Dolphins want to get South Florida back into the Super Bowl rotation.  To make that happen, Sun Life Stadium needs to be upgraded.  To make that happen, the Dolphins need (or at least want) public money.

So what happens if a public referendum tentatively planned for May 14 results in a “no” vote?

Owner Stephen Ross told Pro Football Talk last month in Arizona that the Dolphins won’t be moving, which necessarily reduces his leverage.  But if he fails to secure partial public cooperation to improve a stadium that was built with private money more than 25 years ago, some think Ross will at least consider selling the team.

And if the sells the team, the next buyer could be less committed to keeping the Dolphins in Miami.

The other alternative would be for Ross to simply fund the renovations without public money.  By blinking, however, Ross and the NFL would be setting a horrible precedent for any future efforts by other teams to finagle public money.

The easiest long-term solution would be for folks in Miami-Dade County to support the referendum.  The small increase in hotel taxes would result in a stadium that would attract Super Bowls and other events that would drive plenty of money into the region.

Despite any philosophical concerns about the use of taxpayer money to subsidize billionaires, billionaires always have options.  For Stephen Ross, one or more of those options could lead to the Dolphins leaving town.

55 responses to “What happens if Dolphins stadium referendum fails?

  1. I understand people not wanting to subsidize billionaires, however, in this case, I’d be for it. Miami is a tourist attraction, and should be in the SuperBowl rotation at least as much as places like Dallas.

  2. Just like the owners collude regarding players to keep salaries down and collude to maximize their greed to the fullest extent, it’s time for our states to start colluding.

    If all the states would band together and agree that ZERO public dollars will fund billionairs efforts to make more billions at the expense of taxpayers, then the greedy league would not be able to use “relocation” as a leverage tool.

    Take the advantage away from the league, and keep the leverage in state for education, housing, jobs, etc.
    Send a message to the greedy league and owners that it’s time for them to use their OWN money to run their OWN business!!!

  3. Increasing hotel taxes drives hotel room prices up, which makes visitors less likely to rent rooms. Sure, they’d come for the Super Bowl, but it would adversely effect tourism. If I were a small business owner in Miami I’d vote NO with no hesitation…

  4. This seems like a right turn from the previous articles pointing out that the Marlins took the money and dumped a ton of payroll. It seems unlikely these taxpayers will cover another stadium.

  5. New rule: any team wanting a new stadium, whether or not the funding is there, must have a winning season before they can ask for one.

    Players play harder in their contract years; why not ask the same of a team?

  6. Wasn’t Ross listed as one of the wealthiest owners? Does he not want to use his own money simply because a stadium build/renovation hasn’t been privately funded (excluding the current renovation at Lambeau which isn’t using a penny of taxpayer dollars) probably since Richardson built a stadium for the Panthers? And even that was probably done to make Carolina a more attractive location for an expansion team than a more logical destination at the time like Baltimore.

    He wants to reap the benefits of a state-of-the-art stadium and probably a Superbowl at least once every five years, but not bear any risk.

  7. Being a Dolphins fan it makes me sick how bad the media rips them Hyde,(rips them all the time) Bitching Dave(openly trying to block the stadium update while looking for writers which I hope are going to be writing in LA), Omar(Ask Burnett) they always are ripping them. He offered up over 200 million of his own money. (I wonder how many people ripping him even understand how much that is). They ripped on him for interviewing Jim Harbaugh, really? Will be a sad day when Miami loses the Dolphins but I understand why he would want to move them.

  8. -Miami’s had 10 Super Bowls already, they obviously don’t have a problem landing it
    -Not every team can use the Super Bowl argument: there’s only 1 Super Bowl per year
    -Publications like The Economist and professors at places like Stanford have written extensively that the economic activity argument doesn’t hold water in practice; it just gets repeated by the NFL(a “tax-exempt non-profit”) and the billionaire owners to get tax money

  9. Ross would be the perfect owner for an L.A. franchise.
    He already has brought aboard multiple washed up/has been celebrities and turned the team into a freak show.

    Perfect match and would fit right in for L.A.

  10. Thanks for pointing out that Joe Robbie stadium was built by former Dolphins Owner Joe Robbie with Joe Robbie’s money. It has hosted the Dolphins for 20+ years with huge benefit to the community. Getting in the SuperBowl rotation would be good for the South Florida economy.

  11. “Despite any philosophical concerns about the use of taxpayer money to subsidize billionaires, billionaires always have options.”

    Los Angeles has managed just fine without an NFL team for 2 decades, I’m sure we’d be fine too.

  12. If you mean Omar Kelly cronneb, he is in favor of tax money being used to fund the stadium. I asked him on twitter awhile ago. He feels it’s good for the local economy. So no, he would not rip them for that.

    I personally find it distasteful for a business owner to demand money from the public specifically for construction of buildings that house their private enterprises. And on top of that, these same people are charged admission to those buildings if they want to get in? It’s funny how negative political beliefs about rich dudes seem to take a 180 among fans when it comes to stadiums. The ONLY way it’s even palatable to me is if the people in that area where the taxes are going to go up are able to vote on it. And I don’t even like that. Take out a loan & finance it yourself. I would think someone like Ross would get that it takes money to make money. Maybe not these days though.

  13. I’m a huge Dolphins’ fan and would love to see the stadium updated. But how many times are we going to see these billionaire owners screw over small business owners and taxpayers by making the public fund their toy projects?

  14. Say no to using public money and dare theDolphins to move, either under this owner or the next. LA doesn’t have its stuff together. Dare them to move to San Antonio. The current stadium is 26 years old. It’s ridiculous to be asking for a new one.

  15. NO. This needs to stop with all four sports. Corporate welfare for billionaires from the middle class should never ever be tolerated and anyone who votes for and facilitates it from either party should not be re-elected under any circumstances.

  16. The NFL may be forced at some point to re-evaluate their entire economic model. A recent article cited a guy as the most hated person in LA. He heads Dish network. The reason he is disliked is that he owns the rights to “Hopper”, which is the device that lets Dish subscribers play back recorded shows without having to watch any advertising. Thee four major networks have all filed suit, apparently to keep him from placing that device in the hands of all television viewers because it would destroy their main means of making money.

    Considering the billions the NFL reaps from selling their rights to main networks, they should also probably be a player in that litigation, if only by filing an amicus curiae brief.

    If you combine that with the O’Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA, the possibility of a severely diminished cash flow for all televised sports programming looms large in the future.

  17. Would be very sad if the Dolphins went anywhere else.
    Super Bowl in Miami brings in millions and millions.
    What is the matter with the stadium?? It’s a lot better than some of the other ones. Sticking a roof on a stadium that has been here 26 years is ridiculous. Get wet like everyone else does. Wait for the next Super Bowl in New York, who wants to sit in snow??? That’s a ridiculous place in January.

  18. As a Dolphin fan living in Southern California:

    1. Ross should fund the stadium himself, but ask for new land to be donated by the city. This way the locals feel like they are helping to keep the Dolphins, and Ross pays for a brand new state of the art facility.

    2. The precedent is set, with the vast difference between the average folks and billionaires, the average folks are no longer being held responsible for footing bills for billionaires and their toys.

    “Public Funding” shouldn’t be an option with a billionaire owner.

    If Green Bay needs funding for renovations, public funds makes sense. If the Cowboys need money, Jerry paying makes sense.

    Time people put responsibility on the shoulders of those who want to reap the rewards.

  19. This is how bizarre life in America has become, where ‘it would set a horrible precedent’ for private sector billionaires to actually have to pay for the renovations that would put more money in their pocket.

    I’ve never heard a single fan say they went to the Super Bowl (or ANY game) because of a stadium…renovated, brand new, state-of-the-art, or otherwise. The Super Bowl would be a sellout even if it were held in the old dump Orange Bowl. Stadiums are not much more than monuments to owner egos (and commissioners, ahem) these days. If the swells don’t want to attend a Super Bowl because their luxury suite isn’t pretty enough…WHO CARES?

    It takes plenty of nerve just to even consider uttering the ‘it’s just a small tax increase’ notion anymore. People should accept yet another tax increase so that South Florida can get a Super Bowl every five years? The logic behind it is basically that the hotel and motel guests ‘can afford it’. Well you know what? It is the billionaire owners that can afford it! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH…there shouldn’t be a dime of public money (welfare) that should go to to the NFL or any of its owners.

    If they think it’s such a losing proposition to own a team, then sell it and get out of the business.

  20. I live in South Florida, f#&k Ross and his want of public money, the man is a billionaire, let him foot the bill for the stadium like Hauazinga did to build it, besides the economics of the Super Bowl are crap, it ALWAYS winds up costing the locality more than they make in revenue, the only one who makes money on the Super Bowl is the NFL.

  21. I will admit the marlins really screwed up but the dolphins have a much better plan in mind. first of all the hotel tax increase is not an issue really so long as they don’t forget to remove it once the funding is paid for and second the dolphins have said that if they are not awarded the super bowl then they will return the money and if they are awarded the super bowl it is a win win for everybody because Miami has a long history of doing very well when the big game comes to town. so I think it’s going to pass on may 14th

  22. God forbid these billionaires fund renovations themselves. Why should the public have to pay for the right to increased ticket prices?

  23. Cities/States never pay for a large corporation to build a factory/campus there (that I know of). The economic impact is way more clear in those cases.

    Yes, there are tax breaks and stuff for attracting other businesses, but I view that differently than taking collected revenue and sending it to a random business (NFL) as a handout. Especially in that scale.

  24. I’d be all for the city of Miami giving Ross a percentage of the money for the stadium. As long as Ross gives the city a similar percentage in ticket sales each season.

  25. How about the owner pay for his own upgrades or he sells the team?
    Stop trying to make the public feel sorry for greedy millionaires?

  26. Forget $400 Mfor renovations. Build a new stadium with hotels and shopping right next door (I.e. Patriot Place), and it would become a destination. The Dolphins could charge rent, and it would also allow them to build a new stadium with a retractable roof. If they had a retractable roof, it would help with the 1 PM kickoff and dealing with scorching heat in September.

  27. Miami and New Orleans are the only two places that I would want to go to for a Super Bowl.

  28. Ummmmmm, just curious…….

    When is the putrid team every going to be any good? When are those renovations coming?

  29. If the financials of building a stadium (or renovation of an old one) made sense, then private owners of teams wouldn’t bat an eye investing their personal money in the building. But the financials DON’T make sense. Hence, burden the taxpayer with a bad investment with an empty promise of residual revenue from fans attending games. Problem is, that theory has been debunked.

    It’s very difficult to quantify the economic impact of a pro sports team on local economies. There is some, no doubt. But it’s more than a little ambiguous how much, especially in a place like Miami that has so many other attractions.

    Stay strong, Miami and Dade County! Corporate Welfare has got to stop!

  30. The misinformed concepts above are pretty funny:

    1) This cannot be compared to the Marlins. The Marlins have no “floor” in how much money they spend. The Dolphins have a minimum they have to spend. They cannot dump contracts like the Marlins. If the Marlins wanted a $20 M payroll, they could do that. The Dolphins have to be within roughly 90% of the league Cap. There is no way they can dump their salaries.

    2) Goodell has told the Dolphins they need to renovate the stadium or they won’t get another SB. The reason the aren’t getting the SB of late is because the present stadium is SO bad. It’s ridiculous seating (the stands start about 30 yards from the sideline on each side); it’s old; it’s not loud. It’s just not a great venue.

    3) It’s also to the fans interest in the upgrade because the whole product and experience will be better for fans. The reality is communities are willing to do that with teams because a) they want to keep the teams; and b) feel the team brings community value.

    So if the Miami community doesn’t want a football team they should vote against it. Eventually the Dolphins will go somewhere else and either most of the community will be happy about it because they don’t really want a team. Or they will have screwed themselves over. Then they will be whining about not having a team and they will wind up using public funds to build a brand new stadium which will be more costly.

    4) Compared to most other owners, Ross is going overboard. The Dolphins, unlike Dallas or the Giants or the Packers, are not a money making machine that is self-sustaining.

    5) It has nothing to do with Ross being a “billionaire” or a “millionaire.” It has to do with whether this is a good economic decision. Building his own stadium is probably not going to make money for him (and the mistake Robbie made in making it a two sport stadium and not thinking beyond his past perspective – was a disaster. That’s why they are in trouble now). Furthermore those billions are in cash they are tied up in assets. It’s just asset value and if he tried to sell those – it may well be he would not get the value he expected.

    6) Do SBs help communities? There are doubts about that (but there are economic articles that indicate the opposite of the above referenced research). That said, there is a lot of community good will to having an NFL team over the long haul. Miami will still be a relatively popular place but the presence of the Dolphins does help the community in several ways and creates several jobs outside of the stadium itself. Losing them would hurt the community.

    Ultimately, the Miami community should not complain about what they think the owner can or cannot do. They should decide on the basis of whether they want an NFL Franchise, whether they think that is good for the community (in most cases it is), whether they think it brings good economic benefit over the long haul (not just for the SB); and want to contribute to its support. The community essentially needs to decide whether they want the Dolphins there or not because there are other communities that are willing to pay for the Dolphins.

  31. I wouldn’t give a dime to a bunch of billionaires. They don’t like it? Sell the team and let someone else handle it. Study after study after study shows that having a pro team does almost zero for local economies.

  32. It surprises me that Ross, hasn’t hit on the idea of offering ticket and/or concession discounts to Dade County residents, IF they agree to a tax increase. He wants everyone to “give” evidently except he and his corporate cronies. That area of the country has simply too many tourist attractions for anyone to care about losing a few football games.

  33. I’ve been against taxpayer funding for a long time. In Philly we borrowed hundreds of millions and have really nice facilities…but at the same time have a failing school system, violence problems and a shrinking population. On top of those moral reasons, we all then get to pay crazy prices for tickets, concessions and apparel.

  34. As long as they put in a provision that the new owner not move the team, then Ross selling the team becomes a victory for the franchise and it’s fans. He has run this once-proud franchise into the ground. No new owner could possibly more inept than this one, who right now is finally spending money (albeit unwisely) in order to garner votes.

  35. I wonder if ross paid B/R to write this to try and scare fans lol. Miami isnt going anywhere. Under ross or if he sells it. Just because we havnt been a geeat team in the past doesnt mean were going to move. To much tradition here and way to much money being made here. Lets just hope ross sells the damn team so we can get some real managment that knows football.

  36. Can’t believe Joe Robbie paid for the stadium himself always thought he was the meanest owner ever, maybe if had paid the 72’s & 73 ‘s properly we might have won more than two lombardies instead of them leaving for the USFL or whoever wanted to pay them.

  37. Sure, approving the city tax funding will make a billionare richer but lets not kid ourselves here, the city benefits far more from hosting Super Bowls. This is a win, win, win situation for everyone… City will benefit, real Dolphin fans will benefit (Team would be in debt with the city for 30 years), and last (least important) the owner benefits! I dont see how anyone would not want this deal to get done unless you dont know the facts or ur just a plain Hater!!!

  38. I hope the city of Miami gives this private entity a couple hundred million dollars like I hope venereal diseases infect Florio’s children. 🙂

  39. The NFL needs to get off it’s high horse and quit holding that carrot out to these teams to get a better / newer stadium. If all the teams built new stadiums like the NFL wants, then the stadiums at the end of the list would have to rebuild again in order to get a Superbowl. Roger Goodell, you are ruining the NFL. !!!!

  40. To: flmike, Huizinga did not build the stadium. Joe Robbie did. Joe Robbie also built the team from scratch. Robbie was a struggling attorney, not a billionaire and only got a share of the Fins for putting the owners together and making the deal. Danny Thomas was one of the investors. The Dolphins were broke and could not pay for their meals. As investors dropped out, Robbie took over more and more of the team untill he owned it.

  41. The best thing that could happen would be to reject the billionaire welfare and motivate Ross to sell. The Dolphins have an extended lease on the property that Sun Life Stadium is built on. Anyone moving the team will have to pay $3 million per year in property tax and sell the stadium. Who is going to buy that 25 year old stadium? No one is moving the team anywhere!

  42. The stadium needs to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. It is not, never has been, and never will be a football stadium. Ross needs to design and build a real FOOTBALL stadium.

  43. The stadium proponents are low-balling the amount the stadium renovation will cost. The actual cost of renovation has been reported to cost as much as $684 million. This $684 million would be spent in addition to the $225 million spent a few years ago on the last renovation. That’s a whopping $909 million spent on a 24-year old stadium, which is privately owned but built on public land. They keep lowering the estimated cost of this second renovation in the local papers. I recently read the project would now only cost $400 million and the Dolphins will pay half. Miami-Dade County Tax payers would still be paying $200 million on a stadium that belongs to Steven Ross, billionaire owner of the Miami Dolphins.

    The Dolphins pay $3 million a year in property taxes for the stadium. Of course, the Dolphins have been getting a $2 million dollar rebate from sales tax since the last renovation was completed and are now asking for an additional $1 million per year rebate to help pay this renovation. $90 million paid in property taxes paid over the next 30 years is negated by $90 million received from the State of Florida in sales tax rebates over the next 30 years. In other words, Steven Ross, a man whose worth is estimated by Forbes Magazine at $4.4 billion, wants to pay no tax on his privately owned stadium.

    The Dolphins are also asking for the taxpayers of Miami-Dade County to provide them with an additional 1% bed tax to pay the Miami-Dade County taxpayer’s half of this second renovation. A “bed tax” legally referred to as a “transient rental tax” is a way for local governments to raise taxes without incurring the wrath of voters since, by definition, the people paying the tax are “out-of-towner’s” who don’t vote in local elections. The bed-tax will provide the team with an additional $10 million per year of income or $300 million over the 30 year length of the bed tax contribution, at the expense of these so-called tourists who are in reality anyone renting a car, booking a room or eating at a hotel, motel etc. These taxes can even apply to housing rentals with contracts of less than six months. If the Dolphins were completely honest, they would mention that 20 years of higher bed taxes in Miami-Dade County mean that the lower bed taxes in Broward and Palm Beach Counties will make those businesses more competitive than the Dade businesses for a long time to come.

    In total, we can estimate that $390 million will be provided from state and local taxpayers. On March 28, 2013; the Dolphins announced that they will repay the State of Florida and Miami-Dade County a total of $167 million, starting in 2043. In other words, the Dolphins promise to repay $167 million of principle without interest. In addition, Mr. Ross has stipulated that he will use the current value of the dollar to calculate the actual amount of money to be repaid. No one mentions that the US has been forced to devalue its currency as part of the country’s economic stimulus plan. A stronger dollar in 2043 could create a greater debt for the Dolphins without this exemption. Their offer does not stipulate the number of years required to pay off the loan and fails to offer any interest on outstanding portions of the loan extending past 2043. A 2% interest rate on the $167 million repayment would yield $17,394,961.50 in interest, which means that the Dolphins would have to repay $184,394,961.50 rather than $167 million. This would be a much better deal fro the taxpayer.

    There have been general references to other “penalties” that might amount to as much as $100 million dollars if the team does not attract Super Bowls L or LI. Yet even as the Dolphins promise us a Super Bowl, the NFL repeatedly states that Sun Life stadium is a bad place to watch a football game in February. In contradiction to their distain for South Florida’s winter weather, they have awarded the next Super Bowl to New York. Commissioner Goodell claims that he got rained on down here! I can’t wait to hear about those wonderful brisk half-time shows performed up in the Big Apple! If Sun Life is a bad place for winter football games, why hasn’t the BCS told us that Miami has too harsh of a winter for their bowl game? Think back to Super Bowls played in Dallas, Detroit, and Minneapolis before you swallow that line! Even New Orleans is cold in February. Say, I have an Idea! Arrive in to New York City a week early and go golfing, maybe take a short cruise or shoot down to Atlantic City for some gambling! You won’t need an overcoat; it will be great weather there in New York! I suggest that you don’t attend that New York Super Bowl; instead you will come to South Florida and watch the game on TV poolside while you get a tan.

    The NFL and the Dolphins claim that they will put hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy. This is just not true! The Wall Street Journal did an analysis and showed that at least half of the Super Bowl hosts lost money and about 15% came closer to breaking even than showing a substantial profit. This is mainly due to the amount of services the hosts have to comp. The study did show that Miami was one of the top profiting venues though. I did some math and came to a $6 million average net profit. Now, if you understand economics, you know that this money circulated through South Florida’s economy three for a grand total of $18 million dollars; $5 million more than the $13 million annual gift we will be giving the Dolphins if we agree to Mr. Ross’s plan.

    The Dolphins keep hinting to a five year span between successive Super Bowl hostings here in Miami. But I have not heard about any deal with the NFL to accomplish that. Cities compete against each other to host these games. There are no guarantees that our stadium renovations will bring even one game here to South Florida. On March 22, 2013, it was reported that the NFL was winking and saying that we would probably get that fiftieth Super Bowl game or the fifty-first. Mr. Ross even went so far as to promise that he would pay Miami-Dade County back if we failed. Of course, he didn’t specify when or how much. I does however

    For arguments sake let’s assume that we do get a Super Bowl every five years. The citizens of Miami-Dade County would have paid about $167 million to reap a portion of the approximate $18 million of net profit the game generates. Six Super Bowls in thirty years would generate $108 million. This would leave a deficiet of $59 million to be made up by other events. These net profit figures force us to project that the annual Orange Bowl game and any other BCS games played in Sun Life Stadium must bring in about $2.5 million per year. If we speculate and assume that this money will also circulate three times and provide us with the equivalent of $7.4 million in net profit per year, then I will concede that we could break if we get a Super Bowl every five years and no further renovations are needed to the old stadium.
    Of course, you have to also assume that all of this money will be spent in Miami-Dade County. I do not believe that 100% of the tourist dollar will fall into the hands of Miami-Dade County tax payers. The competition for this tourist money will be fierce. Broward County will not be encumbered by a substantial bed tax and sales tax. In fact, their money will be spent on promotions that will lure a portion of this tourist dollar away from Miami-Dade County. If Broward only nets thirty percent of this tourist dollar, Miami-Dade’s investment becomes a net loss. Sun Life Stadium’s close proximity to the Broward County line pretty much ensures that Broward will get some of this business, no matter what the NFL promises. The NFL does not control the fans money, only their own. In terms of tourist dollars, you have to consider that approximately $2 million of the original $6 million in net profit from Super Bowl will be spent in Broward County. In terms of recycled income this represents just under $6 million of the $18 million going to Broward County. This leaves Miami Dade County with a final value of just over $12 million dollars being realized by those who footed the bill. The same numbers apply to BCS games, as well.

    Another big problem with these speculative numbers is the fact that contrary to what the NFL says, South Florida is a great place for a winter vacations in their own right. February is normally booked at about 80% occupancy in Miami-Dade and Broward counties every year! To be fair, we have to deduct $14.4 million from that $18 million we might generate from Super Bowl. That leaves only $3.6 million of actual profit increase over the annual tourist income that comes here each winter. Remember, the Wall Street Journal’s numbers came added up to $6 million. The other venues that showed a profit were New Orleans, Phoenix, Tampa and San Diego. These are warm weather venues that everyone knows are great winter vacation destinations too. Oops! Do you see a nexus? Could the NFL have over estimated the potential profit from Super Bowl?

    Our tourist taxes need to be spent on keeping South Florida businesses at 100% occupancy from November 15 through March 15 and at 80% year round. It might not hurt to use some of that money advertising to Canadians and Yankee snowbirds alike. We need for everyone to believe that South Florida is a great place to vacation and retire. The absence of income taxes, the maintenance of low personal property tax, the creation of wonderful safe schools, the provision of superior services for seniors and the presence of low crime are the same are the components of lifestyle we, the taxpayers, want to enjoy. More tourists and snowbird residents translate to increased tax revenue as opposed to NFL welfare, which translates to the scarcity of tax revenue for lifestyle create projects. Remember, tourists and snowbirds actually pay taxes rather than ask for handouts! Let’s lure all of those frozen vacationers to our beaches, golf courses and condominiums with our climate and our ability to provide value while they vacation!

    The best solution to the Dolphin Stadium issue would be to appease the NFL and Mr. Ross by offering to create a tax-free bond guaranteed by the profits from the stadium rather than any bed tax. Mr. Ross’s contribution would only be the profit bond purchasers would require. The NFL owners could then buy all of the bonds and hide some of their obscene profits from taxes. Foreign investors might want to compete for these bonds too. The NFL has seed money available to owners for stadium renovations. Mr. Ross could invest this NFL money as a hedge fund against an unexpectedly low stadium profit. Remember, Sun Life is a privately owned stadium. The only other solution would involve the Dolphins giving their stadium to Miami-Dade County and then asking the taxpayer to renovate a publicly held stadium.

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