Miami First Coalition Launches Stadium Campaign

Posted Apr 11, 2013

Miami-Dade business and community leaders are onboard.

On the heels of yesterday’s votes by the Miami-Dade County Commission supporting the private/public partnership to modernize Sun Life Stadium and to put it in front of the voters in the form of a public referendum, the Miami First Coalition was introduced today at the NFL YET Center in Liberty City.

The group of Miami-Dade business and community leaders that formed this coalition are dedicated to educating the voting public on the benefits that will arise from the partnership between the Miami Dolphins and Miami-Dade County. They plan to utilize the electronic media (television and radio), the print media, the world of social media and public speaking engagements to make sure the facts of the partnership negotiated by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on the County’s behalf are properly understood.

“The agreement between the county and the Dolphins will sell itself if in the next 35 days we can get it to the people,” said H.T. Smith, one of two community leaders – along with Jorge Arrizurieta – that are co-chairing the Miami First Coalition. “We are going to be talking to people throughout the community answering questions because there is a lot of misinformation out there.”

The proposed partnership would result in a private funding commitment that amounts to 70% of the project cost in 2013 dollars, with the remainder being funded through an additional one-cent tourist tax and a $3 million per year state tax rebate on goods and services sold at the stadium. The partnership also requires the Dolphins to attract more Super Bowls, college football championships, international soccer matches and other big revenue producing events, thus generating a significant return on the county’s investment.

The private/public partnership will go to a vote on May 14th if state lawmakers in Tallahassee pass the bill proposing the 1 percent tourism tax and the tax rebate before the legislative session ends on May 2nd.

A key component to the successful vote by the County Commission was the Dolphins’ commitment to repay the net proceeds of the County and State contribution, something that is unprecedented as far as sports facility partnerships are concerned. That commitment, along with a number of questions that were answered by Dolphins CEO Mike Dee to the commissioners’ satisfaction over close to five hours, only helped Miami First more.

“We were extremely pleased that the meeting dragged on because people were asking questions like (the media) is asking and getting answers to those questions from the people who have the answers,” Smith said. “People now know that the Dolphins opened their books, not only for the team but for the stadium, and the County had a chance to review it. People now know that the Dolphins will put up money for the vote and once they put it up, whether there’s a vote or not, the Dolphins cannot get that money back. The people know that when we go to the owners’ meeting in May if we don’t get a Super Bowl they don’t get the money.

“So if we had not had that long meeting where 11 commissioners got to ask their questions and to have the experts and the Mayor there to answer the questions, that was absolutely fantastic. The more discussion we have, the better our chances and the more the media asks us questions and hold our feet to the fire the better it is to us. We don’t have anything to hide. This is a very good deal. It’s the kind of deal that if I could personally invest in it, I would invest in it, because it’s a guarantee. How many times do you get a guarantee on your return and you have no risk? Very few times in life do you have that and we the people of this community and the voters of this community have this and I hope that we take advantage of it.”

The fact that the negotiations were handled by Gimenez, who has a solid track record and the respect of his constituents on matters like these, is something that Miami First believes also will go a long way towards winning over the voters.

“It’s clear that the Mayor helped this organization, which yesterday at the dais at the County Commission he probably complimented four times, Steve Ross and this organization, for being gentlemen and for being fair dealers,” Arrizurieta said. “I think that having a gentleman of this integrity, a gentleman of this leadership who has proven to be a very strong, firm and unequivocal leader, support an initiative of this magnitude speaks volumes. We hope that that transfers into our voters understanding that this has public support at the highest levels.”

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