Falcons owner to Beckham: Sharing digs with an NFL team can be fun and rewarding!

And finally, Atlanta Falcons and as-yet-unnamed Atlanta MLS expansion team owner Arthur Blank thinks that David Beckham’s MLS expansion team should share a stadium with the Miami Dolphins:

Here’s what Blank had to say when asked if Beckham’s team should stadium share with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami’s American Football team.

“Yes,” Blank told reporters. “It’s a challenge Beckham has to overcome. It’s important he finds a balance between the commercial side and the special, emotional atmosphere you want for a soccer stadium.”

Is Blank actually telling Beckham that he should throw in the towel on a new stadium and move into the Dolphins’ old place once it’s finished being renovated? Does he think maybe the Dolphins still want to build a new stadium, and could share with soccer? Has he completely forgotten that the Dolphins are doing renovations, and just assumes that every NFL owner is in the middle of building a new stadium, or will be soon? This is the guy who runs an organization that thinks London is in Spain, so anything is possible.

Dolphins stadium built on a Native American burial ground no really

There is absolutely no reason for me to post a link to this story, except that it is the perfect opportunity to make lots and lots of jokes:

A few months before the grand opening of [Joe Robbie Stadium], the Los Angeles Times wrote an article detailing the construction and unique funding of the Dolphins’ new stadium. The article also mentions the burial site discovery:
“Then there were the two acres that archaeologists claimed were an Indian burial ground more than 1,000 years ago. They said that the Tequesta Indians had used the site about 800 A.D., and the Seminole Indians in the mid-19th Century.”
The discovery threw a wrench into the Dolphins’ construction plans because they were faced with archaeological guidelines before they could continue digging. The Dolphins originally agreed to avoid clearing part of the southeast corner of the property where the remains where found but later received permission to remove the remains and artifacts. Because you don’t just not build a football stadium because Native Americans happened to use your land to bury their dead centuries ago.

Not only do the Miami Dolphins play there, but the Florida Marlins used to as well, so feel free to blame anything and everything on the stadium’s builders having violated the spirits of the dead. Or just make Poltergeist references, that works too.

Dolphins release renderings of new roof they’ll buy with their stadium boodle

Now that they’ve got their public subsidies, the Miami Dolphins have unveiled renovation plans for Sun Life Stadium, and whoa:

I guess that’ll placate Florida sports fans who don’t like getting rained on (if you don’t like getting rained on, why’d you move to Florida again?), and that’s what stadium roofs look like in the 21st century. (Light switch cover impaled on bed of nails? I’m going with that.) The team will also move seats closer to the field (no details, so no idea how this will affect soccer seating), add new scoreboard and “high definition lighting” (?), and improve food services. If that seems like not a lot for $350 million, that’s not Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’s problem, since Florida taxpayers are putting up about $100 million of it, with the NFL kicking in another $200 million via its G-4 stadium funding program.

Or, as SBNation puts it:

The $350 million renovation will be funded entirely out-of-pocket by owner Stephen Ross, with an agreement with Miami-Dade County that it pay the team every time Sun Life hosts a major event.

In related news, SBNation is still trying to figure out whether it’s a collection of fan sites or an actual news organization.

Miami to start paying Dolphins to host Super Bowls, light bulb goes off over every other NFL owner’s head

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’s rewards plan for major sporting events is now reality, as the Miami-Dade County Commission last night voted 7-4 to approve a bill giving the Dolphins up to $5 million a year based on how many Super Bowls, college football championship games, and other special events are held at a remodeled Sun Life Stadium. Add in $3 million a year in state sales-tax kickbacks, and — assuming he hosts a whole lot of international soccer friendlies and the like — Ross could end up getting about $100 million in public subsidies toward a planned $350 million renovation, with another $200 million coming from the NFL’s G-4 fund.

This is pretty close to the amount that Ross was asking for in previous renovation funding plans, and also pretty close to what other cities are giving their football teams in order to extend their commitment to remain in town — and Ross has committed to keep the Dolphins in Miami for 30 years instead of the measly six that Charlotte got out of the Carolina Panthers, so I guess you can file this under “it could be worse.”

The bigger concern isn’t with the up to $8 million a year in tax money that Floridians will have to do without, but with the precedent that this could set for other teams. As Heather McCoy of KUCI asked yesterday during our weekly interview segment (no archive up yet, but check here for one eventually) [UPDATE: archive is up now!], isn’t this likely to give other team owners ideas about a new premise for extracting payments from their hometowns? My answer: Hell yeah. When you’re talking about Stephen Ross getting checks for every major sporting event he hosts in place of getting property-tax breaks, that’s one thing; when the owner of a team like the Indiana Pacers who already gets a free arena, free rent, no property taxes and yearly operating subsidies realizes that this is another goodie he can attempt to add to his bag, we could have some problems here.

(Requisite reminder for those just tuning in: Hosting a Super Bowl is not actually a benefit to the local treasury, and not much of one to the local economy, thanks to all the crazy NFL demands cities have to put up with in order to be considered for hosting the game. And it looks like the new College Football Playoff Championship is headed the same direction.)

Proposed Dolphins pay-for-major-events deal would cost public about the same as previous plans

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez revealed the rate schedule for his plan to pay the Miami Dolphins for any major events held at a renovated Sun Life Stadium, which team owner Stephen Ross would turn around and use to pay off stadium renovations. And it goes like this:

Miami-Dade would pay the Dolphins a maximum of $5 million a year based on this bonus schedule:

• $4 million for a Super Bowl or World Cup finals match

• $3 million for a World Cup semi-final or a national college-football championship

• $2 million for a college play-off game

• $750,000 for an “international soccer match or other sporting event which attract significant tourists to Miami-Dade County with at least 55,000 Paid Tickets distributed.” A source close to the talks said the yearly Orange Bowl would not be eligible for a bonus payment.

How much would this subsidy would be worth to Ross is tricky to say without knowing how many events he’d end up hosting. World Cup games in the U.S. come around once in a generation, so it’s almost not worth worrying about that; a Super Bowl every 5-10 years is reasonable to expect, and college football playoff games and soccer matches would be expected even more often.

If the Dolphins managed to max out their $5 million subsidy every year, that would be worth about $77 million (present value) over 30 years; tack on a possible $3 million a year subsidy from the state (I had it at $2 million, but the Miami Herald says $3 million) and you’re at a maximum $123 million in public funds that Ross could get toward an estimated $350-400 million in stadium renovations.

To cover most of the rest, Ross would avail himself of NFL G-4 funds, which mostly come out of money that the team owner would otherwise have to pay to the league. There’s previously been scuttlebutt in Miami that Ross could only get G-4 money if he were getting public funding, but previous events in Philadelphia and Washington seem to indicate that that’s not necessary; if so, then Ross and the NFL may have just tricked Gimenez into coughing up public money by, let’s say, not being entirely truthful.

How bad would $123 million in subsidies (or more likely somewhere around $100 million, since they wouldn’t max out every year) be? It’s pretty close to Ross’s previous plan to ask for $3.8 million a year in property-tax breaks (plus the state subsidy), as well as the previous rejected subsidy deal that was going to be worth about $127 million. The hook for this one is that it would be tied to major sporting events that draw tourists to town — but given what we’ve seen about the failure of such events to do any such thing, plus the high cost to cities of hosting them, that’s not really much of a plus for Miami-Dade.

The upshot here, then, is “Stephen Ross still asking for the same damn $100 million or so in subsidies, only with a different memo field on the checks.” The Miami-Dade County Commission could vote on the plan early next week.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/10/4170175/miami-dade-would-pay-miami-dolphins.html#storylink

Miamians split on deal with Dolphins that nobody knows what it is yet

Much news out of Miami: Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez says he’s close to an agreement with Miami Dolphins billionaire owner Stephen Ross on how much the county will pay the team for each Super Bowl, college football playoff game, large soccer match, and maybe concert that it hosts at a renovated Sun Life Stadium. The money would come from existing hotel and restaurant taxes, and be used to help pay for a $400 million upgrade to the 27-year-old stadium.

How good or bad a deal this is, needless to say, depends on how much Gimenez is planning to pay Ross, and thought the county mayor said he hoped to nail down final details over the weekend, there’s been no announcement as of yet. The Miami Herald reported that the proposed fee for a Super Bowl is “expected to be between $3 million and $5 million”; that alone wouldn’t amount to to a lot when you consider that at best Miami would get a Super Bowl every five to ten years, but the payments could start adding up if Miami-Dade kicks in for more frequent events like college football and concerts as well.

Meanwhile, a new Herald poll shows that Miami-Dade voters are evenly split in their opinions of a deal with the Dolphins, whatever it may be, with 46% in favor and 46% opposed. They’re also pretty much divided down the middle over the still-unfinalized David Beckham soccer stadium proposal (45% opposed, 43% in favor), but strongly opposed to the already-approved Miami Heat lease extension subsidy (53-38%), despite the fact that some guy in New York called it “reasonable.” Maybe Miami voters just flip a coin when they don’t know what they’re being asked to have an opinion on, but when they actually have details about how much it’ll cost them, they start to hate it? That seems a reasonable position to take.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/07/4163300/miami-dolphins-county-close-on.html#storylink=cpy
Readmore here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/07/4163300/miami-dolphins-county-close-on.html#storylink=cpy

Dolphins owner wants to be paid for hosting events at his own stadium

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross now says he doesn’t want property tax breaks or hotel tax kickbacks to help pay for a renovation of Sun Life Stadium; rather, he is now seeking to be paid for each major event that he hosts at the stadium:

Those events would include Super Bowls, World Cup soccer, large international soccer matches, and national college championship and play-off games. Sources close to the talks said the Dolphins are also proposing that major concerts be eligible for bonus payments, pointing to the large number of tourists who flew in for last summer’s sold-out performance at Sun Life by Justin Timberlake and Jay Z.

On the one hand, there’s something to be said for a pay-for-performance model, where at least Ross only gets money if he generates local economic activity. On the other hand, this is — what’s the term? — batshit crazy, given that many of those concerts and major sports events would have happened with or without the subsidies, that most of the people who go to them are not from out of town, that many of those who are out-of-towners are in town already for other reasons, etc.

This is clearly the latest shot in the dark by Ross to find a subsidy scheme that will fly with Miami politicians and residents, but it’s also a potentially new wrinkle in the sports-subsidy game: Don’t just use those inflated economic impact figures as a justification for throwing money at teams, but actually base what the teams get on the inflated economic impact figures. Lord knows whether it’ll work, but given that Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has already said of the size of subsidies relative to the benefits of, say, a Super Bowl, “It’s a small incentive based on economic impact,” Ross may just have hit upon something.

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.

People in Florida don’t understand how money works, apparently

CBSSports.com has an article up on Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’s latest stadium renovation subsidy demands, and here’s all you need to know from it:

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is about to prove that you can renovate an NFL stadium without using public money….

In return for paying for the renovations, Ross would like to get $4 million in annual tax relief, according to the Miami Herald.

Oooookay, then. Maybe somebody else has something to add here — yes, you in the back, NBCMiami?

“You tell Mr. Ross I said ‘thank you’ because I don’t want to pay any more taxes,” fan Kevin Scott said.

But, but… Seriously, people understand that the government doesn’t just take the money you pay in taxes and roll around in it, Scrooge McDuck-style, right? If Miami-Dade County gives up the $3.8 million a year in property taxes it gets from Ross, it has two, and only two, choices: 1) Spend $3.8 million a year less on something else, or 2) Raise taxes to make up the difference. Either way, Kevin Scott is going to have to give up something, unless he doesn’t live in Miami-Dade, in which case I don’t know why he’s complaining about taxes in the first place.

But seriously, this guy must have something more to his reasoning, right?

“If he’s going to spend that type of money, he deserves to get the tax breaks,” Scott said.

Sigh. Well, that’s a different argument, anyway. Still wrong — and it makes me want to try demanding a kickback of sales taxes on all the money I spend in the Brooklyn economy — but at least different.

Dolphins owner’s new renovation plan: How about we stop paying property taxes?

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has finally revealed his “new approach” to paying for renovations to Sun Life Stadium, and it’s new, all right: He says he’ll pay for a $350 million overhaul if Miami-Dade County exempts him from all county property taxes on the building.

[Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos] Gimenez said Ross, a billionaire real-estate developer, agreed to complete the renovations, then turn over the stadium to county ownership and start reaping the tax savings once the project was completed. Team officials said the plan would bring Sun Life in line with stadiums across Florida, which are publicly owned and exempt from taxes.

Yes, it would, and yes, they are, but that doesn’t make it any less of a public subsidy. As for how much of one, that’s a bit tough to say: The Dolphins’ current annual tax bill is $3.8 million, but that would likely rise with property values; if you assume that rising real estate prices roughly cancel out the devaluation of money that won’t arrive until several years down the pike, then 30 years of property-tax breaks (I’m guessing a 30-year lease, though neither Gimenez nor Ross gave any details about how a lease would be structured — more on that in a moment) would be worth a little over $100 million.

Gimenez calls this “a much better deal than what we were talking about last year,” but given that last year’s plan was for $127 million in county subsidies, it’s actually pretty close to a wash. (Ross would have gotten more up front via hotel taxes under that plan, but also would have had to repay some of it down the road, reducing its value.) And there’s one more wrinkle here that the Miami Herald doesn’t mention: Whereas right now the Dolphins are essentially stuck in Miami because they’d have a white elephant of a stadium to unload if they ever tried to move, with the county taking over ownership of the stadium, they’d be able to leave (or threaten to) the minute their lease was up. And there’s also the small matter of the $232 million in debt the Dolphins still owe on their stadium — I’m assuming Ross would remain on the hook for that, but neither he nor the county has said.

There are still a lot of questions to be answered, in other words. At best, though, this looks like about the same deal that Miami-Dade was looking at last year, and at worst it could be a fair bit worse. But hey, at least Miami could reap the rewards of hosting a Super Bowl! Oh, wait.