Norman Braman, HT Smith debate Sun Life Stadium plan

Miami Dolphins want taxpayer money to pay for part of modernization plan

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MIAMI - Two leading figures debated the proposed tax subsidy for Sun Life Stadium's modernization plan -- and it got heated.

Local 10's Michael Putney moderated the debate between Norman Braman and H.T. Smith, the paid chairman of the Miami Dolphins campaign to win voter approval of the plan, at the Downtown Bay Forum in Miami Wednesday.

"This is a rip off any way you can look at it," said Braman.

"You're a good person, but on this issue, you're being a hypocrite," said Smith. "This is a good deal. When Norman stops talking, I'm going to tell what a bad deal is."

"First of all, here's misleading fact number one: what the ballot will say is $7.5 million plus an increment," said Braman. "What it doesn't say is that it totals $289 million that will be paid."

The Dolphins want $289 million from a 1 percent increase in the hotel bed tax in mainland Miami-Dade County and $90 million from a sales tax rebate.

"I don't know about your community, [but] my community can't stand any more taxes. Let the tourists pay," said Smith.

The canopy roof would be the most expensive part of the renovations. Braman said it's the only part mandated by the agreement struck between Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the Dolphins.

"But here's the agreement with the county that Stephen Ross signed. It only calls for a roof," he said.

At the end of the list of proposed stadium upgrades, it reads, "With the exception of the Canopy Structure (sic), the foregoing list may be supplemented, amended, or revised by Stadium LLC"

Stadium LCC is Ross' legal entity that owns the stadium.

The Dolphins say Sun Life Stadium needs at least $350 million in improvements to remain competitive with newer stadiums around the NFL. Miami-Dade County voters will decide whether on the tax subsidy in a referendum in May.

The 30-year economic development grant includes a non-relocation agreement. 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 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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