Florida economic panel rules everybody should get tax money for stadiums they already agreed to build

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has issued its long-awaited (well, for a couple of months, anyway) ruling on which of the four finalists for state sales-tax subsidies are to get priority, and the answer is: all of them!

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity advised Jacksonville, Orlando, Daytona International Speedway and Sun Life Stadium that their applications met all “statutory criteria.” In a letter, the department also recommended that lawmakers could approve all four.

Daytona International Speedway and Sun Life Stadium are each seeking $3 million a year for 30 years for ongoing improvements to those facilities. Orlando has requested $2 million a year for three decades to help pay for a planned $110 million soccer stadium. Jacksonville, with its application supported by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, has asked for $1 million a year for three decades.

This is jaw-droppingly dumb, since the whole point of this process of having teams seeking state subsidies to submit standardized forms to a state agency was to come up with a ranking for who’d get first dibs on the money; instead, the state legislature will now have to decide who gets what, which is exactly as it would have been anyway. It’s also dumb because, as an analysis of past state sports subsidies found, Florida has only received 30 cents of return on each dollar spent on stadium and arena projects. And finally, it’s dumb because all four of these projects — renovations to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins stadiums and to the Daytona Speedway, plus a new stadium for Orlando City S.C. — are already underway, meaning whatever economic benefit the state would get from them, it’ll happen regardless of whether the state decides to divert public money their way after the fact.
If there’s a bright side, it’s that the four sports entities have demanded $9 million a year in funding, and there’s only $7 million in the state’s available sales-tax fund, so the Joint Legislative Budget Commission will have to figure out somehow who’s going to see their subsidy demands trimmed. This is a bright side, however, only in the sense of “The bank just got robbed, but they ran out of money before the robbers’ bags were full.” Also, there’s nothing stopping the state from approving more money later, which means if these teams (and more) don’t get what they want this round, they can just come back for more. Congratulations, Florida — you appear to have just invented the first self-replenishing cat feeder of sports subsidies.

Renovated Dolphins stadium to offer “ultra-luxury” experience for those with cash to burn

The Miami Dolphins broke ground on their publicly aided stadium renovations on Friday, and here’s the innovation the Miami Herald is most excited about:

As part of an ultra-luxury game experience, the organization will send black cars to fetch their elite customers, with a private entrance and exit to skip traffic.

Once there, big spenders will have access to a swanky, all-inclusive club at the 50-yard line, with field access during the game.

Also, there will be 10,000 fewer seats, though at least fans won’t have to cough up for seat licenses. Ticket prices haven’t been announced yet, though CEO Tom Garfinkel promised that there will still be “thousands of seats under $50” (which is usually code for “all but a couple of thousand seats will cost way more than that”).

In short: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is hoping to make money off the renovations by appealing to more rich people who’ll pay to hang out at clubs during the game, because that’s the future of the live football experience, while everyone else watches on their big-screen TVs at home. But you already knew that.

Florida’s sports teams drop 2,000-plus pages of subsidy requests on state

Apparently alongside filling out the cracktastic application form, contenders for Florida’s new process for doling out sales-tax kickbacks for sports projects are allowed to submit additional material. And oh, what additional material:

Based upon sheer paper volume, Orlando and Jacksonville would be the front-runners in the new funding process.

The application from Jacksonville, supported by the Jacksonville Jaguars, stands at 954 pages.

Orlando, working to assist the Major League Soccer expansion Orlando City Soccer Club with a new 18,000-seat stadium, submitted a 1,144-page application.

Less bulky, Daytona International Speedway LLC filed a 110-page application. South Florida Stadium LLC, filing for the Miami Dolphins’ home, submitted 219 pages of material.

Included in these 2,000-plus pages are promises of new jobs, and new tourists, and new new new new! Also most of the work is already underway, so wouldn’t actually be new in the sense of “wouldn’t happen without the subsidies.” But, you know, details! Details that staffers at the state Department of Economic Opportunity will now have to dig through and analyze, which hopefully will mean more than just checking off which boxes the various applicants have provided screwy justifications for, but I’m not exactly holding my breath.

Florida to use standardized ranking to pick which sports projects to throw money at for no good reason

The state of Florida accepted its first applications for its new official state-vetted sports tax kickbacks process yesterday, and the finalists are:

  • The Miami Dolphins, seeking $3 million a year in sales tax rebates.
  • Daytona International Speedway, likewise seeking $3 million a year.
  • Orlando City SC, seeking $2 million a year.
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars, out for a piddly $1 million per annum.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity will now spend the next 60 days ranking the applications by “economic viability,” to evaluate each application within 60 days and by Feb. 1 provide the Legislature with a list that ranks the applications based on economic viability. According to the application form, the list of criteria runs from the sort-of-reasonable (jobs created, though there’s no indication of how to calculate this or whether they’re full-time-equivalent jobs) to the completely cracktastic (“amount of positive advertising or media coverage the facility generates”), with seemingly random thresholds for whether a project gets awarded 1, 2, or 3 points per item.

The worst of it, though, is that the applications all appear to be for projects that are already underway, meaning the number of new jobs and Super Bowls and “positive advertising” that will be generated if the teams get the subsidies vs. if they don’t is precisely zero. Yet the state legislature will now have no opportunity to discuss how stupid this is, nor will citizens have the chance to testify about this, because instead it’s all outsourced to a bunch of state workers with a checklist — all to reduce the amount of lobbying pressure on the legislature over sports projects. Florida continues to be the worst.

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