The Miami-Dade County Commission approved Wednesday asking voters to raise hotel taxes for a renovation of Sun Life Stadium, a $289 million payout that Mayor Carlos Gimenez said breaks new ground in how government subsidizes sports facilities.
The decision sets up what the county elections chief said would be the fastest referendum ever held by Miami-Dade, with voters on May 14 considering a plan that was released in detail late Tuesday. The urgency is driven by the contest between Miami Gardens and Santa Clara, Calif., for Super Bowl 50, which the National Football League awards no later than May 22.
“I want the public to understand that for the most part, they’re getting their money back,” said Commissioner Barbara Jordan, whose district houses the stadium. “That is unheard of.”
After nearly five hours of discussion, commissioners cast two votes: one to set the special election, and the other to give conditional approval to the stadium renovation deal.
Voting for the referendum in a 9-2 vote were Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa and Commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Sally Heyman, Barbara Jordan, Jean Monestime, Dennis Moss, Javier Souto and Juan C. Zapata. Voting against were Commissioners Esteban “Steve” Bovo and Xavier Suarez. Vice-chairwoman Lynda Bell and Commissioner Audrey Edmonson were out of town and absent from the meeting.
The vote for the deal was 8-3, with Zapata switching to “no.”
That vote is tentative, pending voter approval and two additional commission votes to hike the hotel-tax rate to 7 percent from 6 percent. The second of those votes, which Sosa said would take place after May 7, would include the first and only public hearing in the County Hall commission chambers.