Sorry, That New Sun Life Stadium Deal Is Still a Ripoff

Categories: Sports

When news leaked early this week about Stephen Ross' revised plans to renovate Sun Life Stadium, most taxpayers had the same knee-jerk reaction: Victory! Just a year after public outrage helped sink Ross' request for $127 million from the county, the Dolphins' owner was now ready to open his own wallet to the tune of $350 million to spruce up the place.

Of course there was a catch: He's asking Miami-Dade County to eat about $4 million a year that the team pays in taxes. Though that still sounds like a pretty sweet deal on paper, the devil will be in the details. And as usual, it's a fair bet the billionaire will come out just fine in the end.

See also: Report: Stephen Ross Will Pay for Sun Life Stadium Renovations Himself

Ross has made the media rounds pitching the deal as something pretty close to charity, pleading only for the chance to "be treated fairly."

"He wants to be treated like all the other franchise owners," the team's COO, Tom Garfinkel, told the Miami Herald, referring to the fact that neither the Marlins nor the Heat pays property taxes.

Sure, at face value Ross is putting more skin in the game. The deal that failed in Tally last year would have sent between $7 million and $16 million from hotel taxes every year toward paying off the construction for 26 years.

The new package would mean about $4 million less a year in the county coffers.

But that lost tax money would have a much more visible impact than the added hotel tax, which could have hurt the hospitality business but would have otherwise had minimal effect on the city.

That $4 million, on the other hand, is real money that's already being used every year to pay for stuff Miamians need. About $1.3 million of it goes to the school board, while another $1 million goes to the city government of impoverished Miami Gardens.

That's why both Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert have pushed back hard against the proposal, with Gilbert telling the Herald: "I can't pay my police officers, I can't pay FPL, I can't pay teachers we use for after-school activities with uncertainty."

But the deal's problems go deeper than looming cuts to teachers and Gardens cops.

No one has worked out just how long a tax-free deal the Fins would get out of this package. If it's a 30-year deal -- which is not far out of line from many other national stadium projects -- taxpayers will end up handing over almost the same $120 million they would have given Ross in last year's package. And that's assuming property taxes wouldn't have gone up significantly to match the improvements to the stadium.

"You're basically kicking the can down the road for taxpayers," says Neil deMause, author of Field of Schemes, who wrote a piece outlining his concerns about the deal. "I think it's fair to say that this is in the same ballpark as the old deal in terms of public subsidy."

And if the team signs on for a shorter-term tax-free haven, that just gives the franchise more leverage to threaten to leave Miami-Dade without a new deal in ten years.

In fact, just one day after making his friendly media rounds about his charitable offer to pay for renovations himself, Ross was already pulling out the oldest trump card that pro teams have used to bilk millions out of struggling municipalities.

"If I sell the team, I can assure you, with the viewpoint of the politicians and what they want to do, the new owner is going to move the team," Ross tells the Herald.

That gets to the rotten heart of the matter. Ross can dress up his request however he wants, but in the end he's still playing the same game with taxpayers: Give me millions of your dollars or I'll take my ball and go somewhere else.

The result, always, is politicians and voters making huge financial commitments based on fear, not on sound economic policy. It's emotional blackmail, plain and simple, with a beloved franchise as the bait, and coming from an owner who -- never, ever forget -- is worth $5.4 billion by Forbes' last estimate.

That generous $350 million renovation will impact Ross' personal finances roughly the same way that buying a used compact car would impact yours.

As for those uber-lucrative Super Bowls that will start rolling in once politicians give Ross his tax break so he can retrofit Sun Life, well, many economists say they don't actually help the local economy at all.

Fins fans have emphatically said no to billionaire welfare once already. There's no reason to say yes this time just because Ross has flipped around a few cups in the everlasting NFL subsidy shell game.

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26 comments
janedgross
janedgross

You are spot on. This should not be seen as anything else but some lipstick on a pig. Ross is worth 5.4 Billion with a "B". He does not need taxpayer money whether in actual dollars or in tax breaks. The threat that the he will sell the team and they will surely move away is another old and tired game.

DonLouisMiami
DonLouisMiami

You nailed it. This is another "Stadium Shuffle" that we've been burned on before. Let the dolphins leave! Call Ross out and let him try to take the team to another city.


What other city wants a losing ball club for 4.5B - NOBODY.

Brad Flaherty
Brad Flaherty

Whoever wrote this article clearly has no idea how money is made.

Herbert Minera
Herbert Minera

Say yes, if not take the Dolphins to another state I think is Las Vegas Nevada

kfries1
kfries1

If they want the Gubmint to cut a break on funds, I say the Gubmint ought to get a piece of the action. If I'm the Gubmint I'm saying this: "You want 140 million for your team? Great! I want 25% of the team."
That assumes the team is worth 560 million at the time. That way they can open the books and everyone will see what a gravy train owning a team is. No NFL owner will allow the public to see the books and there's a good reason for that. 

theo333
theo333

How sick is everyone in this town of rewarding mediocrity? How about going to a Super Bowl first, then we'll talk.

grantstern
grantstern

The Super Bowl doesn't add anything to Miami-Dade's businesses that another event on the same weekend will generate, it only displaces or diminishes that local event.  


This is another corporate welfare grab.  If he really thinks the next guys will move, then I encourage Mr. Ross to sell the team and let taxpayers test his theory.

Joseph Mazon
Joseph Mazon

THere's no reason to support a soccer stadium, but if Sun Life doesn't get a makeover, say bye bye to more Super Bowls.

Chris S. Kilibarda
Chris S. Kilibarda

Yeah and a soccer stadium for a second rate league that failed the last time is a great investment right?

Leslie Gallegos
Leslie Gallegos

The money asked for last year wasn't "from the county"...it would have been from a hotel tax increase FROM THE TOURISTS! Unless you live in a hotel, you would not have paid it.

DRAKEMALLARD.0
DRAKEMALLARD.0 topcommenter


Every year, millions of taxpayer dollars are poured into stadiums, 
hockey rinks, baseball parks, and other arenas in order to attract and retain 
professional sports teams in big cities.  Often the money is spent by 
the cities after a team "threatens" to leave the city.When that happens, of course, the local news media act as the willing accomplices of the billionaires who own the teams.When city and state governments build facilities for sports organizations which are owned by billionaires, and raise taxes as a result, it is clearly an abuse of power the infrastructure Is falling apart and the schools are in decline with overcrowding and not enough quality teachers no after school programs no firemen,  no policemen, no health programs for the poor. also the cites  are always going to be in debt. this thing do make money.

it time for more recalls /jail time

Welcome to the American dream--
a billionaire using public funds
to construct
a private playground
for the rich and powerful.

Jose Feliz
Jose Feliz

Meanwhile the Marlins, Heat and Panthers pay zero tax for their stadiums, which were all subsidized by taxpayers. We've said yes to all these other franchise owners so why wouldn't we expect Ross to ask for the same treatment? it would have been better to use the $ we gave to that crook Loria to use for this. At least we'd get a few SB's and some NCAA championship games for it. Another Dade County FAIL

Jen Die
Jen Die

and I am glad folks are realizing it. Did you know the NFL is a non-profit organization(Hell Naw)

miamitrev2
miamitrev2 topcommenter

Screwing the public isnt the only way to make money

sunrise305
sunrise305

Maybe the reason they haven't been to a super bowl is good players dont want to play in a boring stadium...

decker1
decker1

Higher hotel rates means fewer tourists coming to South Florida. With fewer tourists coming here and hotel tax revenues diverted to the Stadium, the county has to come up with more money somewhere to pay its bills.  So yes, we all pay for it, even if it's labelled a hotel tax.

sunrise305
sunrise305

I'm sorry but what other county or city in the state has a stadium that pays for its schools? That's what I thought. The school system spends more than a couple billion dollars each year. However, the 1.3 million is too much. Its just a bunch of you crybabies trying to find everything possible to keep the stadium from getting better. Also, how is it welfare for Stephen Ross? He's paying close to 400 million and the tax credit they would lose is 4 million a year. It would take close to 100 years to pay that much. Also, you're a fool if you think the dolphins wouldn't still help schools and government.

sunrise305
sunrise305

All it means to be an NPO is that there is no owner of the NFL. People who work there are allowed to make a profit. Please understand economics before you complain about things you don't understand.

HarryTheHandyman
HarryTheHandyman topcommenter

Right, because the Orange Bowl was a super high tech stadium.

sunrise305
sunrise305

So your argument is that people will come to the city no matter what and super bowls dont effect the economy. But if there's another cent put on the hotel tax, people will leave the city in droves. Makes sense

sunrise305
sunrise305

In the 70s before free agency it didn't matter. Now players would rather be in hellhole-esque cities like Green Bay or Boston in part because the stadiums are still nice. The stadium now is still built to accommodate baseball. Ross will pay for it yet the city of Miami Gardens would rather keep making this team pay because it's free money. I dont think that they should have to pay the property tax because Ross will have paid for everything and again this is the only team in the state that pays a property tax. Sports teams aren't exempt from taxes, Ross wants to make it a public stadium instead of a private owned just like the rest of the stadiums in this state. Dont sit there and cry about the schools and so forth, what other city in this entire state gets the free money like Miami Gardens is getting? Now that you want to make the stadium more attractive so it's there for a purpose everyone's up in arms?

sunrise305
sunrise305

They aren't exempt from paying taxes. The stadiums are owned by the city. The actual team would then pay the city every year to be in the stadium on top of other taxes sports teams pay. But hey, you hear that they won't have to pay so don't look into it.

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