Miami hopes to use Miami Arena tax funds for Orange Bowl
By Susan Stabley
City of Miami officials want to use Convention Development Tax revenue earmarked for Miami Arena for Orange Bowl Stadium renovations if the arena is sold.
Talks are under way between the city and Miami-Dade County to ensure that a transfer of funds can be accomplished, said Otto Boudet-Murias, senior economic-development
adviser for Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.
The city wants to earmark any additional tax dollars for the Orange Bowl, not a new baseball stadium, officials said.
"We are not currently in discussion with the Marlins," Mr. Boudet-Murias said Tuesday.
The city offered in February to marry a new ballpark for the Florida Marlins ballpark to the Orange Bowl by creating twin stadiums, a proposal rejected by Marlins owners. Estimates for fixing up the Orange Bowl range from $110 million to $130 million, according to the city.
The stadium is in need of repairs, and some are under way. Last month, city commissioners kicked in $500,000 to prep the aging stadium for the University of Miami's football season.
Consultants Bliss & Nyitray said 15 of 40 supports on the north side that are deteriorating need to be repaired and the four ramps that lead from the ground to the concession concourse need to be replaced due to "severe damage," according to city documents. The additional funds bumped construction costs from $1.9 million to $2.4 million.
Until the opening of Pro Player Stadium in 1987, the Orange Bowl was the home of the Miami Dolphins and the site of concert performances by Michael Jackson, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen.
Built in 1937, it continues to be the home of the annual Orange Bowl college football game. It is also the home field for the University of Miami's football team, which will play there through 2009 under a current contract.
If the Miami Arena tax stream is directed to the Orange Bowl, the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority may be given control of the facility, said Mr. Boudet Murias. The authority currently manages the arena. Under Mayor Diaz's pitch to combine a baseball stadium with the Orange Bowl, the sports authority was to be in charge.
It's an idea advocated in a study of 17 other US cities with multiple public arenas by accounting firm Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant last year that called for the sports authority to manage other facilities in the city. Consolidation of several city facilities under the authority could increase revenues and save money by eliminating redundant management and staff, centralizing promotion and increasing access to funds, according to the study.
The sports authority was created in 1982 and is largely financed by revenue from Miami-Dade County's Convention Development Tax. Its offices are in the Miami Arena.
The city is considering selling the 16,600-seat arena, built in the late 1980s for $52.4 million. It has been underused since the NBA's Miami Heat and the NHL's Florida Panthers moved to newer venues within the past six years.
"Our predecessors spent million of dollars to build a structure that was practically obsolete the day it opened," Mayor Diaz told the sports authority March 2 when he presented a proposal to sell the arena to parking-lot mogul and developer Hank Sopher for $25 million.
According to the mayor's proposal, selling the arena would save the city more than $60 million. Accountant Richard Berkowitz told the sports authority that the city would save about $120 million through 2020 if the arena is sold.
The city owes about $35 million on the arena, which was built for about $50 million, according to Mr. Berkowitz. Remaining debt after the sale would be paid with Convention Development Tax funds, he told the sports authority.
Mr. Sopher had not signed an agreement to purchase the arena as of Tuesday. The sports authority agreed March 2 to sell it. Mr. Boudet-Murias said the city wants to know if it can transfer funds to the Orange Bowl before it finalizes the arena sale.
If Mr. Sopher signs a purchase agreement, the city wants to put the property in a public auction 60 days later.
"It's a very open and public process," said Keith Carswell, director of the city's Department of Economic Development, which would handle an auction. Bidders would have to beat Mr. Sopher's offer of $25 million, and he would have the right to top the winning bid, Mr. Carswell said.
Anyone interested in participating in an auction must "pony up $3 million to get into the game," Mr. Carswell said. He said it would be a refundable deposit.