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Miami-Dade commission asks Legislature to OK Dolphins' partly tax-funded stadium plan

The Miami Dolphins’ sprint to get public dollars to upgrade Sun Life Stadium got a boost Wednesday, when Miami-Dade commissioners urged state lawmakers to pass a bill designed to create new state and local subsidies for the renovation.

The Dolphins are asking to increase a Miami-Dade mainland hotel tax to 7 percent from 6 percent and for a $3 million a year subsidy from the state. Their goal is to get the government to fund about half, or $199 million, of a $400 million renovation that would revamp jumbo monitors, move seats closer to the field and build an open-air canopy that would keep fans drier and cooler.

For the county to increase the hotel tax, it needs a thumbs-up from the state. Then to bump the tax up it must come back to the county for a vote. The Dolphins say they need the renovations to lure more college national football title games and Super Bowls to South Florida, particularly the National Football League’s 50th anniversary championship in 2016. To get the premier NFL showcase game, the Dolphins must compete with San Francisco’s new stadium, and the team’s bid would have to be in place by the end of May.

Wednesday’s vote was a nonbinding request. But state lawmakers pushing the Dolphins’ proposal said they wanted local support to lobby a divided delegation.

And commissioners still suffering the public backlash over the one-sided Miami Marlins’ Little Havana ballpark deal had a hard time ignoring the 300-pound gorilla in the room. There was plenty of discussion about the football club opening its books, diversity in hiring and fair negotiations. But almost every speech on the dais began with a reminder of the Marlins fiasco.

“The stench of the Marlins deal is in the pores of everything this is about,” said Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, who also said he was concerned the commission might be rushing to judgment because most residents aren’t even aware of the Dolphins’ plan.

The discussion began with Dolphins Chief Executive Officer Mike Dee explaining the financing plan and saying a vote in favor of the resolution “would send an important message to our lawmakers statewide.”