Miami Dolphins huddle with business teams to call stadium tax plays
<01>By Zachary S. Fagenson
The Miami Dolphins are scouring South Florida for a business group to back their plan to increase bed and pro sports facilities taxes to fund improvements to Sun Life Stadium and the Miami Beach Convention Center.
At the same time, the team is said to have lobbyist Ron Book working on the case.
"I do know they have a bill that is [being] drafted that they have sponsorship for in the legislature," said Jack Lowell, chairman of the Beacon Council and vice president of Flagler Realty Services.
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee is to go before the council's executive committee to present the team's plan in late January. Mr. Lowell said "it's highly unlikely" the Beacon Council will take a position on the issue but the presentation is good information for its members.
Mr. Dee is also to discuss the plan at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce trustees luncheon in early January.
"First they would need this enabling legislation from the state to both expand the tax… to allow several things to occur, one of which would be that you could make a payment cross county within a certain geographical area," Mr. Lowell said. "Secondarily, you could use this money... to expand the convention center.
"If that legislation passes the state, then Broward County could contribute to Dolphin Stadium renovations and some money from the bed tax could be used for the Miami Beach Convention Center," he added.
Mr. Book, who's representing the team, declined to comment but noted that he was hired by Dolphins owner Stephen "Ross to represent the team in all governmental matters" and has been representing the team since 1982.
Neither he nor Mr. Lowell would confirm which state representative the team is working with. Earlier this year it planned to introduce a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett, a Bradenton Republican, but pulled the plug due to lack of local support.
The bill would also allow the sports tax to expand to Miami Beach, where it's not collected now.
Yet across the causeway it faces another hurdle.
The Miami Beach City Commission has twice rejected the idea of using public money to fund improvements to Sun Life Stadium.
In return, however, the Beach would receive money for long called-for improvements to the convention center that, as of July, were expected to be about $530 million plus soft costs.
The Dolphins are looking for public money to add a partial roof, new lighting and 3,000 luxury seats near the field. The team and National Football League representatives have said the improvements are crucial to bringing future Super Bowl games to the stadium and to South Florida.
Ron Katz, who represented Mr. Ross on recent a refinancing of Miami-Dade Industrial Development Authority bonds, saving the team $7.9 million in debt servicing annually, couldn't be reached.
The team has sought support from the Orange Bowl Committee as well. Officials of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau could not be reached to comment on whether the team has sought their support.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau hasn't yet been tapped for its support, though it's interested in learning more.
"We were a major beneficiary of the Super Bowl," said bureau President and CEO Nicki E. Grossman. "If there is a need to improve that stadium for future Super Bowls, we would want to have a seat at the table for future discussion."
And though she said there is no economic engine in Broward comparable to the stadium, fulfilling the team's wish won't be easy.
"I know that it would be very difficult for Broward County to consider increasing the bed tax, but I don't know what the language is," she said. The stadium "is a resource that our economy would expect us to help protect."
Recent figures show Miami-Dade County was the only state market to grow in every taxable sales category signaling a faster recovering local economy. Read the complete story in e-Miami Today.