Latest Dolphins stadium plan sucks in new and surprising ways

The Miami New Times’ Tim Elfrink has an excellent post up about Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’s latest proposed stadium deal, echoing my concerns that it’s no better for taxpayers than Ross’s previous plan. (Literally echoing in one place, since he quotes me.) But Elfrink also points out a couple of additional reasons why this new deal could actually be worse for the public:

  • Last year’s Ross plan was for a hotel tax surcharge, “which could have hurt the hospitality business but would have otherwise had minimal effect on the city.” This year’s is for a property tax exemption, which would come out of existing Miami-Dade County coffers. While it’s true that money is fungible and raising taxes isn’t without its costs to the local economy, coupling a stadium subsidy with a tax hike does have different consequences than taking the money out of the county’s existing property-tax proceeds, which would directly hit school budgets and the budget of the troubled city of Miami Gardens.
  • The term of the property-tax break hasn’t been laid out — if the county takes over Sun Life Stadium for good, then presumably it’d be permanent — and neither is the term of the lease that Ross would agree to. As Elfrink notes, “if the team signs on for a shorter-term tax-free haven, that just gives the franchise more leverage to threaten to leave Miami-Dade without a new deal in ten years.”

In other words, still lots of known unknowns. But overall supportive of a conclusion that Ross is trying to get away with just about as sweet a deal as last year, those cheery headlines notwithstanding.

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One comment on “Latest Dolphins stadium plan sucks in new and surprising ways

  1. Well, Ross might sell the team. But unless he sells the team and keeps the stadium, it’s hard to see how a new owner would be more motivated to just leave… unless of course, Ross will sell the two together for less than the market value of the team alone.

    So no, I don’t think Ross will sell the team (which he didn’t actually threaten to do, to be fair, but he did nonthreaten to do it). And even if he does, I don’t believe a new owner will be willing to move the club and keep paying property taxes on the now empty stadium in perpetuity.

    Joe Robbie built a privately funded stadium (that should still bear his name, of course, but that’s another matter entirely). He also built up a wonderful business that neither Huizenga nor Ross seem to have been able to run at all well.

    Notice that he said he wanted to be treated fairly – “like all other (NFL and/or Miami) team owners”. I don’t consider that ‘fair’ treatment, compared to anyone else. I consider it welfare.

    If he doesn’t like the deal he signed up for, he can certainly sell the team to the league. But he’s going to have to find a sucker to buy that stadium off him, or keep paying property taxes…

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