Miami Dolphins begin Sun Life Stadium deal campaign

Voters to decide whether to increase hotel bed tax in mainland Miami-Dade

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MIAMI - The Miami Dolphins began their media campaign Thursday to drum up support for renovations at Sun Life Stadium among Miami-Dade County voters.

On May 14, voters will decide whether to increase the hotel bed tax in mainland Miami-Dade by one percent to help fund renovations at the stadium. The team will pay for the local referendum.

The deal, a 30-year economic development grant, includes a non-relocation agreement. The Dolphins could pay a minimum $120 million repayment penalty if certain conditions, including the number of Super Bowls and BCS Championship they land, aren't met.

The Dolphins have offered to pay the county and the state back the money it receives from a sales tax rebate of $3 million a year for 30 years.

The state legislature is considering a bill that would authorize the rebate and also raise the hotel bed tax. Under the Senate version of the bill, the Dolphins would have to compete for that money with other professional sports franchises in the state.

"The agreement between the county and the Dolphins will sell itself if, in the next 35 days, we can get it to the people," said attorney H.T. Smith, who is teaming up with Cuban-American leader Jorge Arrizurieta to head Miami First, a political-action committee funded by the Dolphins.

Miami First aired several ads earlier this year.

"It is an initiative that H.T. and I will take to the streets of Miami-Dade County throughout every community to ensure that every question that needs to be answered is answered," said Arrizurieta

The pair said the deal struck with the Dolphins is much different than the one for Marlins Park, where taxpayers paid 75 percent of the bill.

"This is not the Marlins deal," said Smith. "Most voters, I think, are fair and they'll say, wait a minute, we're not going to hold the Miami Dolphins responsible for another deal that was a bad deal."

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he won't actively campaign for the deal.

"If people ask me to participate or ask my opinion, I will give them my opinion," he said. "I am going to get into a campaign mode? No, I have a county to run here."

The Dolphins say that their 25-year-old stadium needs at least $350 million in improvements to remain competitive with newer stadiums around the NFL. In its deal with the county, the team will pay 70 percent of the cost.

The Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, who will move into a new stadium next year, are vying for Super Bowl L in 2016.  The loser will compete against the Houston Texans to host Super Bowl LI in 2017.

NFL team owners will announce the locations of Super Bowls L and LI on May 22 in Boston.

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