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Dolphins to make stadium upgrade case Monday

The Dolphins Monday plan their grand unveiling of a plan to make between $350-$400 million worth of upgrades to Sun Life Stadium to, as the team claims, make the facility a first-class place for the next 30 years.

The Dolphins are calling this "a modernization" of the facility that opened in 1987.

And here's an unexpected kicker: Ross is prepared to pay for "substantially all" of the freight of this modernization as long as his government partners begin helping him with the cost of running the facility. This according to a source familiar with the Dolphins' thinking.

That's a big deal.

But despite this, the team faces an uphill battle. Local sentiment runs very much against using tax dollars to upgade or update private sports facilities -- particularly in the wake of the Marlins deal with Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami, which proved to be frought with broken promises and misdirection.

The Dolphins privately claim they are not the Marlins. Not even close.

Today, in fact, they will call themselves "a different kind of fish," while not publicly naming the Marlins.

Privately, they make the point they are going to put up a significant portion of the price tag themselves. Even  If Ross doesn't get the lease concessions from the politicians, he's willing to pay between $150-$175 million, although that pricetag would have to be negotiated out. In that scenario, the club believes that with owner Stephen Ross is putting up approximately 40-50 percent of the cost to improve the facility, local politicians will still see this as a palatable partnership.

There's also this: The tax dollars aren't coming out of the pockets of local taxpayers. The public side of the funding in the deal is expected to come from a hotel bed tax. The Dolphins will ask local politicians to raise the tax tourists pay for staying at local hotels.

The Dolphins will argue that none of these funds take money out of city or county coffers that are used to pay for teachers or schools or cops or firemen. Hotel bed tax money is slated exclusively for the improvement of local facilities such as the Miami Beach Convention Center and, yes, Sun Life Stadium among others.

So what's the trade-off?

The Dolphins say making this modernization to Sun Life will help attract events such as Super Bowl 50 and the BCS national title game to town. That, they say, is a boon to the local economy. Although the team will continue to back local Super Bowl bids regardless of whether this project goes through or not, the fact is the NFL has recently reserved Super Bowl awards to communities that have either built new stadiums (Indy, Houston, New York) or upgraded their current stadium (New Orleans).

(South Florida is in the running with a new stadium going up in Santa Clara for the 49ers for the rights to Super Bowl 50).

The Dolphins also believe upgrades will give their facility more of a homefield advantage for them as well as the University of Miami football team, which also plays its home games at Sun Life. Part of the proposed upgrades include bringing seats closer to the field to improve sight lines and increase crowd noise. Sun Life currently has the highest percentage of fans sitting in the upper deck of practically any other facility in the NFL. The team wants to cut that number while adding seats closer to the field.

The upgrades would also include a newer version to the old canopy roof proposal the team made previously.

There will be pushback among some locals. Those folks are still stung by the Marlins deal that basically funded 75-80 percent of the new Marlins Park at the old Orange Bowl site. The Marlins are on the hook for only 15-20 percent of that project.

The Marlins got that deal, in part, by saying they were losing money. They nonetheless refused to show officials their books and it was later learned the club was making money.

The Marlins got that deal, in part, by promising to put a top-flight lineup on the field after spending years cutting salaries, even at the expense of trading great talents for inferior, younger, cheaper talent. They did that for one year. And this offseason they've gone back to cutting salaries.

The Dolphins obviously will counter this by showing that Ross will be highly invested in this venture, and indeed, nearly fully invested if he gets lease concessions. And the club can make the point that unlike a professional baseball team, the NFL's collective bargaining agreement calls for a salary cap.

That salary cap contains both a ceiling as everyone knows, but also has a floor which prevents teams from conducting talent fire sales to cut costs.

And then there is the giant elephant in the room. Ready?

If the Dolphins do not get the modernization they're hoping for, they will continue to play at Sun Life as is. And they will continue to do so as long as Stephen Ross is the owner.

But ...

Ross is 72 years old now. He eventually will sell the team. And although he would like to sell it to someone who will keep the team in South Florida, the truth is there is no guarantee he will do that.

He may sell to someone who wishes to move the team. Yes, the NFL would frown upon this but NFL teams do move. (St. Louis, Cleveland, Oakland, Arizona among them).

And the Dolphins, unlike practically all other NFL teams, currently have no lease holding them to their home stadium and thus their hometown. So basically, nothing is tying the Dolphins to South Florida other than tradition and ownership.

Therefore, it might be wise for South Florida politicos that if they do this deal to indeed let Ross pay for, again, "practically all" of the project and also tie the Dolphins to the region and the stadium that is being upgraded. I'd suggest a 30-year tie, which is approximately the length of time the club is saying the upgrades will keep Sun Life contemporary.

Would that cost local government in having to help run the facility? Yes. Will that require funds? Yes. Might that require tax dollars for operating subsidies? Yes.

The Miami Heat have a similar arrangement.

This is a big deal for the team and it comes on a big date: Today is January 14, 2013. It is the 40-year anniversary to the day of Miami winning Super Bowl VII and completing a perfect season.


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That giant white elephant will grow even more if the county says no.

There's nothing that is holding the team here in South Florida.

"To Live and Die in LA?"

The Fins are never going to move. Come on, Mando.

Ross is getting older and a businessman. He will sell the team when the luster wears off. For now,he is like a child with a new toy but that will change.

Upgrade it. Sun Life sucks.

Yeah the Dolphins are going to move!! Are you insane!!!

No chance!!!!

Welfare for Billionares. Crony capitalism. Ugh. Taxes on others who come to Miami will result in less money to spend in Miami except for the connected such as Ross. Why not tax Ross for Dolphin losses?

No stadium will be up-to-date for 30 years. Seems like the Dolphins have not been to a Superbowl in about that long.

Finally, it seemed like all the teams this past weekend had playmakers. Something the Dolphins should note during their six year rebuilding project .

If he pays 50% or more, it would be one of the best stadium deals in the country. we learned our lesson from the Marlins...now it's time for us to drive a hard bargain and get a GOOD DEAL out of a billionaire.

Pony up, Ross! You better pay the majority!

Perhaps they could sweeten the offer by including in the upgrade plans the placing a bronze statue of Jeff Ireland outside the stadium.

I wouldn't put 1 cent into that stadium until the fins prove they can put a winning team in it.

Stephen Ross and the Miami Dolphins can suck it. Their parking and concession prices are so high the average resident is priced out of watching the game live. What good is improving a stadium the local fans can't afford to enjoy?

The dirty little (not-so) secret these days is the how horrible these stadium deals are for the general public. They get tied with hidden costs down the line and get very little in return, while these Owners make off with most of the cash. City after city after city, this only helps the billionaire Owners and the politicians whose palms get greased. If I were a Miami resident, I'd tell Ross if he wants to improve the stadium to do it at his own expense. I'm not worried about the Dolphins moving (who would want them?).

Not a fan of increasing taxes for anything in these times but Invisible taxes are the way to go if they are going to pursue public funding. There's a good pool to draw from if you use bed taxes. The main benefit of having these events in Miami is the tax dollars in revenue they generate. It's going to be hard to look at the big picture and say this hurts this avg person because it doesn't.

DC Dolfan There are MANY cities that would want the Dolphins DUMB POST. Ever Heard of LA?

Also, I hope we can put a cork in the importance of defense and how defense wins championships and all that outdated thinking. If there weren't enough data already out there for the most stubborn (or stupid), just take a look at the scoreboards this weekend. The lowest score was 28 points. That was the LOWEST. San Fran, Denver, these "top notch" defenses. 28 points.

But let's shore up our defense and oline at the expense of the people who actually touch the football and score TDs. Very wise. I'm sure these same people are thinking bayonets are coming back as a means to fighting wars.

They focus on everything but improving the actual product on the field. This Ross is a real business genius, alright!

Don't care to waste tax payers money to upgrade the stadium. Never been to a Dolphins game probably never will.

jordan, obviously you don't know anyone in L.A. I've got family there, friends, talk to lots of people from L.A. And for the most part, they could care less about football. That's a basketball town. It's the NFL that wants L.A. to have a team because they are such a huge TV market. But the actual residents, ahhh, they could take it either way.

lol.take out 60,000 seats,
this way it will sell out.

Florida is football country. All Miami has to do is be good again and they won't have any problem selling out the stadium.

tommya, the parking and concession are less expensive than most NFL team, check it out,

Yeah Clue you're a typical SoFla fan very Typical.

As a conservative republican/libertarian, the government should keep their hands off my entertainment...my football team! Like NPR, the government has no business taking my money and giving it to liberals and the very rich! Taxes are evil and should be abolished. Mr. Ross, how dare you expect a handout, whether to pay for the project or just it's upkeep.

Funny...I am actually a liberal but that was kind of fun. Odd that Mando would support such a venture involving even a little government assistance.

Personally, water, sewage, roads, schools and even entertainment is important for a community. Even if it means assisting the rich.

The Stadium is half empty with no winner on the field and it will remain that way unless and until Miami is a winner again. That is understandable, but some open markets may exist that better support a consistently mediocre football team. LA may be one, although I think probably short term until the luster wears off. But, I wouldnt be so sure that nobody would buy the team with intent to move it, with no deal tying it to the area.

I dont believe that any upgrade will make the stadium contemporary for 30 years. That's just BS. Brand new "state of the art" stadiums dont stay state of the art for 30 years. Still, if the planned upgrades will guarantee or greatly improve chances for winning a Super Bowl bid, and I think they definitely would, then it's a no brainer that they work something out. Atleast Ross isnt asking the city or county to foot the entire bill for a new facility let alone for the proposed upgrade. And he isnt trying to extort them with "we will move". Something needs to be done with the stadium and with the way things work these days, Ross's offer atleast looks reasonable as a starting point.

What's the over/under on "upgrade the GM" type comments for this post. I say 50.

Can't believe people still vacation in Miami to a signficant degree. Outside of the football team, I don't see any reason to spend my vacation money on the region. It's expensive, overcrowded, and kind of dirty.

Much better deals reside in places like Mexico, Dominican Republic, and yes to a Canadian - in Cuba. Goign to have to be careful raising this tourist related tax because there are already enough deterrants for people to not spend their money there.

Although, I'm sure it's quite a beautiful city to live and work in. to me there is a difference between a place where you make your home and earn your living vs vacation. to me, there really isn't anything appealing about spedning your vacation time in any North American metropolis.

If Ross can afford 'most' of the improvements to his own stadium, why not pay for all of them instead of reminding us of the scummy Loria?

Very impressed with Kaepernick. SF definitely has to be a heavy favorite. Even vs. NE (though we ALL should be Ravens fans this weekend). But don't credit Harbaugh too much. Like someone else said last week, he just stepped into a team that had pretty much all the pieces already. Just needed the finishing touches.

Couple of points here: While I certainly sympathize with anyone complaining about the cost of attending a game I must wonder if they are in a bubble in terms of focusing that anger solely on the Dolphins.

The fact of the matter is that the Dolphins have some of the CHEAPEST tickets in the NFL, and the overall cost of attending an NFL game in Miami is in the bottom quarter of the league. It actually costs FAR more in most other cities.

Secondly, you guys who keep mentioning Los Angeles are not grounded in reality at all. Yes, it's just a matter of time before LA regains an NFL franchise (or two) but those paying attention know it's the Chargers who are by FAR the most likely to go followed by the Rams (how ironic would that be?), Jaguars, and Bills. Miami is not on anyone's list---nor would the NFL allow the nation's 5th largest television market (that's Miami folks--now a city bigger than Philadelphia) to lose their team

Aint happening.

And by the way, I fully support this stadium upgrade. Moving the seats closer has long been a NEEDED improvement to make it a true football facility with a real home advantage.

to me, there really isn't anything appealing about spedning your vacation time in any North American metropolis.
Posted by: Mark in Toronto | January 14, 2013 at 09:23 AM

I wouldn't spend it in a metropolis, you would spend it outside of a city and visit said city to see the attractions. Spend a day there. But no if I'm going to Miami I'm going to the beach or somewhere near yet not in the city. It's a fun night-life not so much a family atmosphere

The stadium is a god damned abomination, and it starts with the lack of ability to have crowd noise. Of course move the seats closer.

They should figure out a way to move seats closer and create crowd noise as cheaply as possible even if the "grand" plan does not get approved. Can't cost more than about $40,000 to get some construction workers out there and put seats closer to the field.

DC Dolfan, Kaepernick is impressive but a favorite vs NE or Baltimore in the Super Bowl would be tough. Against the dirty birds, yes, but that's more if Atlanta's undoing than SF proving they're better. A rookie QB (essentially for Kaepernick) still has the possibility of being hit or miss. Though other than NE losing I'd love to see a Harbaugh SB, interesting storyline in an otherwise uninteresting SB if Atlanta were to make it

jrs, I have to agree (about the cost to attend a game in Miami). I've been to a handful over the years, and it really is very affordable. And I enjoyed the games I attended (of course, I've only been there for 1 loss, so made the experience better).

People here are just haters. They wouldn't be happy any other way.

In other words, "don't let perfect be the enemy of good." It is *not* a major tax needing $3 billion expense to simply put the seats closer to the field and do some tweaks on acoustics to make crowd noise a 12th man, as it is for every single other god damned team in the league.

Even if Ross can't get the public funding for a major overhaul, at least fix the crowd noise problem using about $40,000.

MD20. Yeah, I have to agree with you there. I mean I can see all the appeal in the world in lving in a city like Miami. Close to the ocean, vibrant nightlife, etc, etc. However, when my vacation time comes, I'm usually so flat out exhausted that I don't want to bother with any of that. Anyway, point was that the region has to be careful in raising taxes - we should ALL be doing things to ENCOURAGE travelling, not deterring from it.

I do like spending weekends in different cities in North America if there is some kind of sporting event or conceert involved though. But I don't really call that a vacation - more of just an extended outing. And I usually come home more tired than when I left.

DC--Yeah, unfortunately I'd have to agree a lot of people here are so unrelentingly negative/hostile all the time that they seem to be only loosely tethered to rationality.

That said, I also think part of it is just simple ignorance. If a fan has never attended a game elsewhere they would have no real knowledge of how much cheaper it is in most cases to go to an NFL game in Miami, even if "cheaper" is a relative term.

Miami's concession prices are lower than New York, New England and Indianapolis. So I do not think they can possibly out ouf whack. Does anyone else have a clue what is going on with the friggin logo change? Tried lookin up stuff, but just found about 150 different ideas, all of which 8 are something I would like as much/better.

And yes, Dolphins tickets are some of the most accessible and reasonably priced tickets out there. I went to the Giants/Steelers game this year and bought tickets on the secondary market. I think I paid $300 for nosebleeds. I think if I spend $300 at Dolphins stadium, Mr. Ross would personally copme to greet me.

If Ross is set to pay for a large portion out of his own pocket and tie the team to South Florida I say do it. Baseball, although coined "America's pasttime" does not bring nearly the potiential earnings that a football stadium/team can. See the Dolphins don't have to make it to the superbowl to host the game, as we all know, among the BCS. Marlins won't have a World Series unless they make it and that is decades away. Sorry but footballl is "America's pasttime" and this deal is much sweeter. Also I am not sure if anyone watched the 49ers at Seattle game but SF lost that game because of the noise level that stadium created. It flustered Kapernick and I believe caused more than 10 delay of game penalties. The worse part of Sun Life are the views from the nose bleeds. Damned if you do damned if you don't. GO PHINS!!!

Poizen, nope, haven't seen anything on the new logo. I guess they're keeping it under wraps.

I just can't wait until March. Free Agency begins, and Jeff Ireland goes on the clock.

Wake me up when he upgrades the front office, starting with a new GM.

The new logo will be unveiled before the draft. They haven't announced an exact date.

From what I've read, the "leaked" logo that came out just after Christmas is NOT the final product. Currently, the team and the NFL are working on a finalized design.

If you want a reasonable guess of what it may look like, I think this would be close (and is possibly leaked from the team irself):


I like it a lot, actually.

Presumably the new owner will buy the (improved?) stadium just as Ross did. Why would the new owner then abandon the stadium to move the team to another city?

They need to UPDATE the TEAM first.....

Who are you UPDATING the stadium for...the 10,000 fans that still show up....

Stop with the band-aid cosmetics.....


Give Philbin a real GM to work with....

Win 11 to 13 games a season for the next 5 years....and the Statdium will build itself....

jrs, that's a more vicious dolphin, I like it better too. I was hoping they might tweak the colors too, I guess that's too much to ask for.

If the citizens of Miami say no to a slight tax increase and the Dolphins are forced to move can we finally all agree that Dolphins fans from that area suck?

I bet there will be a HUGE pushback from local government who will be forced to protect the old people and minorities from losing the few pennies a week this will cost tax payers. I can hear it now. "In this economy"!? They are fine with helping the Marlins who are terrible from top to bottom and there doesn't seem to be a problem with the funds given to the Heat. I know they win NOW , but not so much when the deals were struck.

The Miami Dolphins put the city of Miami on the map and that's the bottom line. Miami in the early 60's was a wasteland filled with racists, rioting, and inequality. NO ONE wanted to visit Miami.

The Dolphins moved in and brought the community together. Going to a game and being a Dolphin fan made people realize they were all neighbors, it became a community event that connected everyone in the area.

Others took notice and wanted to be a part of what was happening. Businesses started relocating , people started building more homes and it just boomed from there.

Miami was in part, a large part, made by the Dolphins. The city owes them, the people owe them, do the right thing Miami.

Kris, I've been a fan since 1968 (yeah, I'm old as dirt!) so obviously I understand your frustration and share it!

That said, I think we really need to come to the realization that upgrading the stadium and improving the team really are two entirely different things that don't have to be in conflict with each other at all.

I have read some posts here (not from you) that seem to suggest the front office would be preoccupied with one over the other or that somehow money would be spent on improving the facility instead of the team itself. This is not even close to reality. They are seperate items with seperate people working on it. If you want a recent example, the Saints started working on overhauling the Superdome when the team itself was still struggling. A couple of years later, they won the Super Bowl.

I believe the stadium DOES need the investment and, in fact, would make it a better environment for the Dolphins to WIN at home--particularly moving those seats closer to the field to help create a much better atmosphere/noise.

The stadium AND the team can be improved concurrently.

Phins, you're not taking into account the extra expense SoFla residents have in buying up all the guns before the President passes his regulations. It's Wild West country down there. They can't spare a few shekels for the 'ole football team.

Phins78, the city of Miami would not be involved at all. The team does not play in Miami itself. This would be a funding deal in conjunction with Dade County (and possibly Broward to some degree) involving hotel taxes.

DC--agreed about the color scheme. I like that one proposed logo a LOT but would have liked to see some gray or grayish silver incorporated since that's the color of an actual porpoise. But no biggie.

So the Miami Heat and Florida Marlins, teams that didn't even exist 20 years ago, can get new stadiums no problem, But the Miami Dolphins, a FOOTBALL team that has been here since 66' has to beg just to upgrade the stadium?

Look, I don't like my tax dollars going to private corporations either, and that's basically what this is. But we'll all pay the exact same amount for taxes regardless if the Team gets money for the upgrades or not.

The Superbowl is an estimated $500 million boon to the economy every time it is here. The BCS championship is half that. If South Florida gets those 2 events twice every 10 years, that's 1.5 billion going to the local economy on a $200 million investment if the state picks up half the tab for the renovations.

Anyone with an ounce of business savvy would tell you that's an excellent investment. It's not that different than giving private businesses tax breaks and free land to build facilities here. You create jobs yes, but the profit goes straight to the company.

The Dolphins are a business, and this is a deal the State and county should make.

Thank you for the link, It did not work here at my work, but I will trust you guys that it dows not suck like many other ideas I saw. :) Ireland on the clock. DC, The circus is about to come to town.

Go it on my phone, looks cool.

Poizen--sorry that link didn't work.

Basically, it's a more stylized/less cartoonish version of the current logo. Less of a 'friendly' Dolphin without lokking silly and too anthropomorphic (which I think the current one does, frankly).

No idea if it was actually leaked by the team to gauge reaction, but I suspect that could be the case since it's VERY professionally designed, unlike much of what is on the net right now.


Isn't Miami in Dade county? So I should have just said Dade county residents jrs? If Miami is within the border of Dade county and houses the most hotels isn't the city going to be directly effected?


I know my post is somewhat irrational...and grounded entirely in frustration....

You are right....they are two seperate issues....but it's hardfor me to even think about a stadium upgrade when this team hasn't put a winning product on the feild in 4 straight years....and maybe one winning season in the last 10....

I just want ALL efforts concentrated on a team that will PLAY and COMPETE in January year after year....and when I look @ this roster....I don't know if that is the case....

Can Tanne play with the poise of a Russell Wilson...

Can Ireland find players like a Verreen..who scored more TD catches in ONE playoff game than Hartlne did in 16 regular season games.....and those were tough catches...no gimmes...

You're Saints example gives me hope that these two thing can be done @ the same time....but I really just want ONE over the other....

Also...would love to see the seats closer to the feild...

The NFL is huge business. The deal will get done - the stadium will eb upgraded. The NFl brings in a lot of ancilliary money to each city that holds a team.. I still believe in the conspiracy theory that US govt stepped in and made sure there wasn't going to be a work stoppage last year because of all the money the NFL creates. They are just going to haggle over the details for a while to determine who holds the bag for what.

C'mon Kris, we have the most elite LT in football. Do you really NEED anything else?

Jon is exactly right and there is a perfect example of this in New York State. The New York Islanders are moving to Brooklyn in 2015.

The owner was going to build a new arena mostly on his own dime. It was going to cost tax payers what amounted to $1.26 a year. The arena is the oldest in the league and resides in Nassau County town of Hempstead. Older people complained about their taxes going up, politicians wanted to protect their reelection so they started smear campaigns against the owner.

Long story short the towns politics played a major role in derailing this project. The owner got fed up trying to make the place attractive for customers and potential free agents. He struck a deal with the owner of the Nets and the Islanders will be playing at Barclays center in two years.

Nassau counties projected loss from the Islanders moving is around 4 million a year which will put them in the red. Guess who will be paying to get them back in the black? You guessed it, tax payers! Projected tax hike in 2015 for Nassau County residents, $2.33. So they are going to be paying more than if they had just payed to keep the Islanders due to the lost revenue.

Exactly ross blowz! Force them to move so the county loses revenue and raises your taxes even higher than they would have been had the Dolphins stayed. It worked great in Long Island, it's a great plan! Don't give him a dime! Force his hand! Make him sell the team to someone who doesn't give a s$%t about Florida!

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