Monday, January 14, 2013

My take on the stadium deal

Let me start by re-iterating that I do not believe that public funds should be used to fund a private stadium.  Period.  No discussion.  I don't care if the money would come out of bed tax dollars.  Its wrong to give a handout to a private company.

And if our elected leaders do, then I want some free money to renovate my home, thanks.

Mr. Ross made a public statement today outlining his "plan" to tell us it will take $400 million dollars to renovate Joe Robbie Stadium, and that he'll pay "most of it" out of his own pocket, as long as he gets some public funds and some concessions (ie tax breaks).

He (or maybe it was Mike Dee) added that spending that kind of money will keep them from needing another new stadium for another 25-30 years.  Hold on.  New stadium?  What's up with that? 

In any event, they trotted out more-or-less the same artists renderings as before, and told us they want to add the partial roof, the stands closer to the field, new actual seats, new scoreboards, and better lighting.  For only (!) $400,000,000.

Now lets take the trip back in history: Joe Robbie negotiated a land deal and build the stadium privately.  At the time, it was the largest private financing for a stadium, at about $115 million in 1986 dollars (around $250 million in today's dollars).  He didn't have enough cash to cover the costs, so he had to mortgage the team's equipment to do it (and ultimately it cost his family ownership of the fins).

H. Wayne made an attempt to make the stadium a destination with a carnival or whatever. But he was rebuffed for the public funds, and the NFL told him that they wouldn't assure him the superbowl would come to Miami every 3-4 years.  So he scrapped it.

Later - and really only a few years ago - Wayne added some "amenities" (like high end bathrooms) to the club level for about $200 million.  Some may argue that it was privately funded, but that's a little inaccurate because he got a sweet tax break, and some of  the money was borrowed from the NFL's no-interest stadium program, and there's no way to account for how much, or when it was paid back.  And then, he basically added that cost on to the price tag when he sold the stadium to Mr. Ross, since it was just after construction.

So here we are.  Ross wants to make sure Miami has the Dolphins.  And to ensure that the superbowl keeps coming here, and the BCS keeps coming here, and that soccer keeps coming here, and that premiere events keep coming here.

The reality is that if the superbowl didn't come, no one would care.  Its a corporate event that doesn't generate that much new revenue, and nearly everyone who "works" there is a volunteer.  How's that a win?  The BCS is similar.  And other events?  Circque Du Soleil is the first actual event I've heard about coming to JRS in the last 3 years, other than football or a couple of soccer games.  Concerts go elsewhere.  The Marlins are doing everything in their power to steal every event they can as well.

The Dolphins once talked about putting a water park there.  Where's my big slide, dad gum it?  I'm still waiting!

And if I were a conspiracy theorist, I might argue that this is all window dressing: Miami's name may still appear on the teams that have interest in moving to LA.  The timing is at a point where Ross could say that they don't want his team here.... wait that's unlikely. 

What's much more likely is that he is looking to boost the value of the team, and stadium renovations would do that - and then he can sell the team for a much higher value.  Don't forget, he's 72, and might want to sell in the next few years....

So that leads us back to this attempt to dupe the public in general, and dade county in particular, into giving him some money so that he can make more money.  He has hotels on his side, the orange bowl committee, the superbowl committee, and some local business folks behind the idea - because it suits their interests, not mine or yours.

He wants to spend almost double what the stadium originally cost to renovate it.  Does anyone else see a problem here?

I hope the politicians are still wary of what happened with the Marlins and tell him he can do it himself.  And if he does get another tax break, then they need to follow through on making it (and the Marlins park) homeless shelters on non-gamedays.

And given both team's inability to sell tickets, it could even be on gameday.
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