By DOUGLAS HANKS and PATRICIA MAZZEI
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez emphasized his support Friday of county ownership for the Miami Dolphins’ stadium if the team can reach a deal over lost tax revenue for the school system and the facility’s home city of Miami Gardens.
“I really like [team owner] Steve Ross. I think he is trying to do the right thing, but nothing that you ever get done here is going to be easy,’’ Gimenez told WQAM 560 sports-talk host Joe Rose. “We’re not far apart. I think the [county] commission can see the logic in this, and I hope most of the people in Miami-Dade County can see the fairness in this.”
Ross has offered to use private money to pay for a $350 million to $400 million stadium renovation in exchange for Miami-Dade County taking ownership of the 1987 facility, which would free Ross of a property-tax bill worth $3.8 million in 2013. The Miami Heat and the Miami Marlins, like Florida’s other pro-sports teams, don’t pay property taxes because they operate government-owned facilities.
When news broke this week of Gimenez’s talks with Ross over a potential deal, the mayor said he wanted the team to satisfy both the school system and Miami Gardens, which both receive about $1 million a year from Sun Life property taxes. “That’s money for our children,’’ Gimenez said to Rose. With Sun Life the top taxpayer in Miami Gardens, Gimenez said taking over the stadium without some relief for the city “would be a huge blow to their tax base.”
In the interview, Gimenez offered a hint at some of the terms under consideration. Ross wants the county to own Sun Life, but he’s not looking for government help in maintaining it, Gimenez said. Both the Heat and Marlins receive millions of dollars in yearly subsidies from Miami-Dade hotel taxes that help pay for debt service, maintenance or operations of the facilities the teams run.
The proposed Dolphins deal “may be the best of all because he’s not asking us to maintain it,’’ Gimenez said.