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Miami Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium modernisation plan approved


The Miami-Dade County Commission approved Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s plan for bonus payments to the Miami Dolphins for hosting marquee events in exchange for Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross being financially responsible for the US$350m renovation of the stadium without county assistance.


Ross said in a statement:

I want to thank the Board of County Commissioners and Mayor Gimenez for approving this unique and creative plan to bring Super Bowls and other marquee events to Miami-Dade County. We have one of the world’s most aspirational cities and, as such, deserve a stadium that will provide significant economic impact to Miami-Dade County. This will not only secure the future of the Dolphins, but will ensure that Miami has one of the world’s best venues to host events of this magnitude going forward.


The resolution, which was co-sponsored by District Commissioner Barbara Jordan, was approved around 1 p.m. on Tuesday after approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes of discussion.


Dolphins President and CEO, Tom Garfinkel, added:

I’m just excited that we can break ground and get started on creating a world-class facility for a world-class community. Now the hard work really begins. We’ve got to get the renovation plans finalised, start construction and get it done.


Garfinkel told the Herald that the renovation would include the addition of a partial roof and would bring Sun Life Stadium’s capacity down from 76,000 to 65,000, adding seats closer to the field and removing a number in the upper-level to make it a more soccer-friendly venue. However, this does not open the way to a collaboration with David Beckham’s proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise in Miami at this stage, with the former England international and his consortium committed to building a soccer-specific facility at around a third of Sun Life’s capacity.


Garfinkel spoke before the county commission and the Dolphins delegation in downtown Miami included Pro Football Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Larry Little, along with former Dolphins greats Jason Taylor, Dick Anderson and Nat Moore.


Taylor said it was important for former players to show their support:

We are the Miami Dolphins. All the former players, guys that live in this community still and make this home, we are the Miami Dolphins. It’s not just an owner or the players or the staff, it’s all of us included and it’s important for us to come out and support and do what we can to help. There’s plenty of politicians and lobbyists and all that that do the dirty work. We lend a hand where we can.


Marino pointed out he played in the first-ever game at Sun Life Stadium back in the 1987 pre-season and he’s thrilled it’s about to get a facelift:

I think it’s great for the community. I’m a Dophins fan. It’s part of my life, playing there so many years. I’m excited that it’s going to be around and get a new look.


With the agreement with Miami-Dade County in place, Garfinkel said the Dolphins intend to bid for the next available Super Bowl, SB LIII, next spring, to crown a champion in the 2018 season.


Garfinkel explained:

That was part of the intent of trying to get it done. We want to bring in as many marquee events as we can as soon as we can.


Garfinkel said the modernisation of the stadium would be done in two stages and construction could begin within a few weeks. The goal is to have all of the work done before the start of the 2016 season.


The new deal was reached under what was termed a Performance-Based Marquee Event Grant Agreement, which is designed to help bring marquee events such as Super Bowls, college football championships, college football semifinals, World Cup soccer matches, as well as other international soccer events, and is for a period of 20 years.


The key points of the agreement:

  • Stephen Ross and the stadium owners will finance and construct the US$350m’s worth of modernisation improvements to Sun Life Stadium that will make the venue state-of-the-art and extend its ability to attract marquee events for the next 25 years
  • The owners of Sun Life Stadium will earn a Performance-Based Marquee Event (PBME) Grant after each of the following type of events are secured for the community and hosted at the stadium in accordance with the following schedule: Super Bowl and World Cup final: US$4m; college football championship and World Cup soccer match: US$3m; college football semifinal: US$2m; international soccer: US$750,000 (under the agreement, the stadium owner can get credit for no more than two international soccer events, other than World Cup matches, per year)
  • The stadium owners are eligible for PBME Grants after the stadium is awarded a Tier One Event or on Oct. 1, 2016, whichever is later
  • PBME Grant Payments shall only be made from the county’s portion of available Convention Development Tax (CDT) funds. The county is not obligated to make such payments until Dec. 31, 2024. At its sole discretion, the county may make payments earlier if CDT funds are available
  • In each year of the PBME Grant Agreement, there is an annual earning and payment cap of US$5m, meaning no matter how many marquee events have been secured for the community and hosted by the stadium, no more than US$5m can be earned during each year and the stadium shall not receive any more than US$5m in marquee grant payments in any given year
  • In the event CDT funds are not available to fund PBME Grants previously earned and due to the stadium owners, then the amount owed will be rolled over and eligible for payment in future years subject to the payment cap of US$5m per year. Such unfunded PBME Grant amounts shall be rolled over for nine years on events earned prior to 2024 and five years for events earned after 2024
  • Prior to 2024, the stadium owners may not earn more than a total of US$30m in PBME Grants
  • The county may set aside additional operating funds from the CDT for its new museums (Art and Science) and the cultural facilities the county operates prior to making PBME Grant payments to the stadium owners
  • The county has an obligation to pay unfunded amounts existing at the end of the agreement term in accordance with the five-year rollover provision and the US$5m annual cap in PBME Grant payments. This provision is important as an incentive for the stadium owners to continue securing marquee events for the community in the last five years of the agreement


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