Dolphins revenues soaring after stadium redo, if you have a lenient definition of “soaring”

Another weird article, from today’s Miami Herald:

Revenues at the stadium now known as Hard Rock were up 11 percent in the 2015 fiscal year, a sign that [Miami Dolphins owner Stephen] Ross’ half-billion dollar investment is already paying dividends.

That’s according to Fitch Ratings, a Big Three credit rating agency that recently announced that it has affirmed South Florida Stadium LLC’s BBB (“investment grade”) credit rating.

That’s potentially really interesting, since one of the big questions in stadium finance debates is how much new revenue a team can actually collect from a new or renovated stadium. Much of the Dolphins’ stadium renovations — new seating, upgraded suites, and new concessions facilities — were completed in time for the 2015 season, even if the new roof canopy wasn’t ready until this season, so let’s project out an 11% revenue increase and see what that means in actual dollars. Yo, Forbes, what do you have for annual Dolphins revenues?screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-54-05-amTeam revenues had been going up $5-10 million a year in prior years, but that’s still a sizable jump of $78 million in a two-year span, which would be more than enough to make the payments on Ross’s $350 million stadium renovation cost, especially when more than half of that is really being paid by the NFL. Why, if Ross hadn’t rebuilt his stadium, he’d be muddling along like — who’s next on the Forbes list, the Green Bay Packers? Let’s check them out:

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-10-00-51-amHuh. What about a team toward the bottom of the revenue barrel, like the Oakland Raiders?

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-10-02-54-amYou see the problem here? Every NFL team is doing dramatically better the last couple of years, thanks largely to the league’s lucrative new TV deals. Forbes doesn’t break down stadium revenue vs. overall revenue, unfortunately, but it’s clear that even if the Dolphins are seeing an 11% jump in venue revenue, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to those annual TV checks.

None of which is to say that Ross shouldn’t have done the renovations, or that they’re not nicer for fans, or even that we should care one way or the other what Ross does with his own money, and the NFL’s. (Well, we can still care about whether the renovations are nicer for fans.) But this is another data point in favor of “new or renovated stadiums have a more modest impact on fan spending than you might think,” which is a lesson that everyone needs to remember when talk starts up of a team owner’s “need” for a new stadium.


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