A Florida senator has filed a bill that could prevent the Miami Dolphins from getting $225 million in public funding to upgrade their stadium.
Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, filed SB 980 on Thursday. It would authorize an increase in a convention development tax solely to fund improvements at an existing publicly owned convention center. Currently, the tax can be used to promote tourism and to build or improve convention centers, stadiums, arenas, and auditoriums.
Bennett’s bill would specifically prohibit any increased tax revenues from being used at the National Football League team’s stadium in Miami-Dade County.
A long-time opponent of public funding for professional sports facilities, Bennett has also filed another bill that would prohibit such spending without a local referendum.
The Miami Beach Commission voted last week to unanimously support Bennett’s bill, which would provide financing for long-sought improvements to the Miami Beach Convention Center.
The Dolphins have said they worked with state Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, who filed HB 141, which would allow Miami-Dade and neighboring Broward County to increase their tourist taxes with a portion of the revenue supporting bonds for stadium improvements and a portion financing the convention center upgrades.
The Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association Feb. 1 voted to support HB 141 to fund improvements at the convention center and Dolphins stadium.
The showdown over tax revenues began last year when the Dolphins promoted a plan on their website and in speaking engagements to obtain $225 million in public funding to bring their 24-year-old stadium up to “world-class” standards, with amenities such as a canopy-style roof, high-definition video screens, and extended seating.
The team said the impetus for the improvements grew out of concern expressed by a Super Bowl host committee report, which said the facility was rapidly falling behind other NFL venues as a site for future Super Bowls. Dolphins stadium has hosted five of the NFL’s coveted Super Bowls, three BCS National Championship games, and concerts.
The team said on its website that the upgrades are necessary to remain competitive for future Super Bowls and “other premier events.”
The Dolphins’ plan has not been well- received by Broward County commissioners, who have said they are concerned about using their tax revenue to support a competing facility in another county.
Broward has its own publicly funded multi-purpose facility, which is home to the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers and serves as a venue for lucrative major events such as concerts.