Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Manti Te'o

This story is so strange...and yet wonderful.  Sports need something other than the nonsense that it has become.

It sometimes needs to be turned into something else.  Read it.  Revel in its odditiy.

Joe Robbie Stadium

We got some additional insights into the proposed stadium upgrades.

First off, we hear about Norman Braman who vows to fight the deal.   Right on.

Then, we hear about the Dolphins launching a website and a twitter feed to build momentum.  And yesterday, Mike Dee told us the Dolphins would open their books if anyone wants to see them.

Okay the website is brochureware, not not unlike what the Marlins did to try and get the public on their side.  The twitter handle is a means to counter everything they hear.   And as for opening their books, I'm calling BS.  That ain't gonna happen.  No private sports owner will ever - EVER - do that.  They may give you a few bits and pieces and claim its from the books, but that's about it.

And also yesterday, "The Donald" made a statement in favor of it.  I've come to the conclusion that if he is in favor of something, we should take the opposite position.

As for the approach, there are two major pieces.  One is legislation in the state to allow for stadiums more than 20 years old, where they plan to renovate in excess of $250 million, and the owner plans to pay more than 50% (meaning pretty much the Dolphins only) getting $3 million a year in state tax breaks.  There was no mention of end date, so we have to assume its forever.  In essence, the Dolphins get free money from the state year over year just for having done a renovation.  And that's in addition to the $2 million a year they are currently receiving.  The bill was introduced yesterday.

Fortunately, there are at least a few sensible people in the legislature who told the press that they didn't think this bill would even get to committee.  Why?  Because its extremely special interest, of course!

Second, the remainder of the money would come from an increase in hotel taxes, essentially increasing taxes from 6% to 7%.  But there are many questions about that.  First, there is a state cap on the amount of hotel tax locally (set at 6%), so it would take the legislature allowing the increase.  Second, the 6% by state and local law can only be used on public facilities.  Apparently, they either want to change this, or use an end run because they lease "public land" for the stadium.

And finally, any increase in taxes would be calculated annually and paid out at some point in the future.  Its not like the county has $275 million lying around it can give the Dolphins.  So my question is: how does this transaction happen?  Does Mr. Ross front the money, and then recover it later?  And when its done, does it stop?  Or does the county have to get a loan for the $275 million to pay back over time with this additional revenue?

My guess is that its the latter.  So, in effect when you hear local leaders say there's no impact to the locals, that's not entirely true because there is an outstanding loan that will have to be paid back - and if there isn't enough hotel tax to cover it, locals are on the hook.

Now I know that the law says that these tax dollars can't be used for things like schools. But if they can change legislation to allow a sports owner to take the money, why can't they change legislation to let schools get this extra 1%?  Wouldn't that make a helluva lot more sense?

Obviously, I am not in favor of any of this.  He wants it renovated, he should build it himself, and not burden me or the people of Florida.

Now as for the public statements about this bringing the superbowl here and helping the economy: that's nonsense.  Hotels are already at 80% occupancy in the winter, and this does help push them above that, for a week.  But hotel rooms are mostly blocked by corporations at lower rates, and the benefit to the local businesses is debateable, based on the number of people and the time they are here.  Plus, of course, there is the downside, like more water usage, trash, security, that offsets some of that gain. 

And as I've noted previously, most of the "jobs" that are created for that week or so are unpaid deals.  Yes, they can boast that they employed x number of people, but its all volunteer hours in exchange for being close to the excitement.  And maybe a slice of pizza. 

Things like the annual boat show, or a major festival are bigger boons than the superbowl.  But the superbowl has the hype, and it does have the indirect benefit of bringing the international spotlight on south florida.

Anyway, other major events have to vie with other big cities with nice weather and nice facilities.  Maybe they win, and maybe they lose out on those.  But the stadium itself is less of a factor than the fact that there is one, its large, and its in desirable place with warm weather.

So....we'll see where this all nets out soon I think.  The decision on superbowl 50 is in May, and the Dolphins hope to have something in place by then, so their bid will "be taken seriously" by the NFL. 

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.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday playoff games

No one should be surprised that the Patriots won.  They own the Texans, much like the Texans own the Dolphins.  Sometimes these things just go this way...

The Falcons finally won, with their QB Matt Ryan, who Miami passed on to take Jake Long.  He may have been 0-3 previously, but at least his teams have qualified for the playoffs over that span!  And just as a reminder, the Dolphins and Falcons were in the same spot several years ago, and looking for a new direction.  The Falcons wooed Parcells but he chose Miami.  He's gone, his coach is gone, and his GM should be gone.

Meanwhile Atlanta went in a different direction, and has had stability and success.

Oh, and I couldn't NOT mention the rookie QB who had an absolutely outstanding performance for Seattle.

It just goes to show that stability and a good QB can go a long way...

Saturday playoff games

Peyton Manning loses in the playoffs, and that means that still NO QB has won a superbowl with one team, and gone on to win a superbowl with another team.  Ever.  Ray Lewis goes to another AFC Championship game.  And Joe Flacco (a QB taken after Jake Long) returns to the championship.

Incidentally, Anquan Boldin had a big game yesterday, and as I recall, Rick Spielman wanted him.  But the Wannstache picked LB Eddie Moore instead.

And then in the NFC, Colin Kaepernick sets a record for most rushing yards by a QB.  Lets see, he's a second year player, right?  And someone I was banging the drum about when he came out of Nevada.  Naturally the Dolphins selected some other guy (Pouncey).  And as for Aaron Rodgers, the Dolphins had a chance to get him as well, but took Ronnie Brown #2 overall. 

So both of the Harbaughs make it back to the championship games.  That's somethin'

And my point is just what different directions Miami and these teams are going.  Miami has had chances but whiffed on them, and then compounded their own mistakes...

Ahhh well, enjoy the games today!

Stadium improvements

I couldn't help but notice that at last week's BCS championship, the Dolphins had added seats to the sideline behind the "home" side.  They were likely temporary, because they were put in quickly, but it demonstrated what the Fins plan for the long term.

Now comes word that the Fins are going to make yet another grab for public cash as early as this week.  Of course the refrain is the same: use a hotel tax and possibly a sales tax to pay for it. 

But this time, there's an interesting twist.  Barry Jackson (Miami Herald) provided this quote: "We're furious what the Marlins did slashing payroll, because this will make it more difficult for us [with politicians]," a Dolphins official said. If approved, "Sun Life will be like a new stadium," the official said, "and it will delay the need for a new stadium by 25, 30 years.... Stephen Ross will cover a large chunk of the costs."

Reading between the lines, Ross will pay for some of it himself (you could probably add "if he has to"), and they're pissed because another owner grifted and caused the tap to likely be shut off.  And as a citizen, I say: good!  Pay for it yourself!  Its your private stadium, and your private team.  Why do I have to pay for upgrades?  Sheesh.