Referendum coming in Sun Life Stadium deal

Miami-Dade County voters to decide on deal May 14

MIAMI - The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners voted in favor of putting the Sun Life Stadium deal before voters in a May 14th referendum.

During the special meeting Wednesday, commissioners voted 8-3 in favor of the deal Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez reached with the Dolphins. Commissioners Rebeca Sosa, Bruno Barreiro, Sally Heyman, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Barbara Jordan, Dennis Moss, Jean Monestime, and Javier Souto voted yes. Xavier Suarez, Esteban Bovo, and Juan Zapata voted against the deal.

Voters will decide whether to increase the hotel bed tax in mainland Miami-Dade by one percent to help fund renovations at the Miami Dolphins' home.

"The difference between the deal we negotiated with the Miami Dolphins and the other stadium deal is night and day," said Gimenez.

"We owe it to the community the ability for them to decide what they want," said Sosa.

Commissioners debated the issue for about five hours.

"I understand the deadlines I just can't abide by them," said Suarez.

"We are now in shotgun mode," said Bovo. "Something has to happen, I'm assuming, to send a message to the legislature that we're onboard or we're supportive or the county wants this and there's a political dance involved and then we're asked as a body to make a decision on something that was, in essence, given to us in bullet-point form yesterday."

"The economic impact will be felt for many years to come," said Jordan.

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 team will also pay for the local referendum.

"There are no taxes on Miami-Dade County residents," said Miami Dolphins chief executive officer Mike Dee. "This is driven by tourism taxes, those paid for by visitors to our community, taxes that we pay when we travel and visit other communities would fund the majority of this project."

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.

"I haven't seen the bill yet," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday. "As you know, I put out five principles of what would have to be in a bill for me to sign it, and it was basically tied to: what would the owner invest? Will there be a local referendum if there's going to be a tax? Is there a good return on investment for the taxpayers? Will the team commit to stay for the period of time? So that's basically what I said my criteria would be, so when the bill gets finished, I'll review it and make a decision."

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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