Wednesday, June 18, 2014

About that stadium deal

On paper, this is probably the best deal that the Dolphins ever presented to the city, the county, or the public.

Essentially, Steve Ross will put up the money *up front* to renovate the stadium.  The plan will start in the next few weeks, and will span two football seasons.  And it will include pretty much everything he has pitched previously.

Except for that darned water park, which is conspicuously absent..

But.  Its essentially the same deal that they offered last year as part of the public push, the vote, the bed tax dollars, etc. With a twist - that the money will be paid to him in the future, rather than up front.

So here's how it works.  Ross borrows against the NFL fund, and might use a little of his own money.  He is expected to "renovate the stadium" with no specific dollar figure or set of criteria for what he will do.  (more on that in a moment)

The county will pay him some money every year, based on what premier events he brings to the area.  Its tiered, but based on soccer matches, some college football games, and the superbowl, its not unreasonable to think he would net $3 million a year.  And the deal, as I understand it, spans 30 years - so essentially, he stands to make back at least $90 million from that stream.

The county will use bed tax dollars to pay for it, and its complicated, but until they get their books balanced, they don't have to pay - but they are on the hook regardless.  So if, say, they can't balance the books for 10 years, they would make a $30 million payment, and then start paying yearly.

There's also some state money that then gets freed up because of this deal, and Ross' lobbying group is already back asking for the subsidy for the Dolphins, as well as a capital improvement tax break.  So again, he could easily get another $100 million out of these streams.

So is it better?  Possibly.  But the county is still on the hook for a lot of money, and will probably wind up borrowing to pay for it.  And the good people of the state will also be paying for this renovation.

Now, to the plans.  I heard Garfinkel earlier today telling us that the two-year plan includes redoing the concourses this year AND redoing the entire club level.  Say what?  Isn't renovating the club level what Wayne did a couple of years ago?  The second year is intended to put a canopy on it and new scoreboards and seats.

Remember that a couple of years ago, they expected all of this could cost less than $200 million, before it was inflated to the number you hear today.  If that number is really still the right one, then they make that back.  Sure its over time, and again that's better than the alternative, but I always think if a deal sounds too good to be probably is.

The devil will be in the details, which have not been revealed to us yet.

We'll see what happens - and if some group tries to sue to block it. Seems marginally fishy to me that the deal happened behind closed doors....

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