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Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins and a water park

The release of financial documents showing the Florida Marlins were profitable in 2008 and 2009 couldn’t have come at worse time for … the Miami Dolphins.

That’s right, the Dolphins. As the Dolphins continue their behind-the-scenes planning to ask the public to help pay for renovations to Sun Life Stadium to keep it competitive to host future Super Bowls, the baseball team’s finances can’t have helped the football team’s cause.

The Marlins’ financial records, obtained by, show the team had net operating income – before factoring in taxes, interest, amortization and other items – of nearly $50 million combined during the two years covered. With much of the fallout from the documents' release focusing on the team's ballpark deal, politicians are wary.

Miami-Dade County Commissioners, who opposed putting $347 million mainly in tourist taxes into the ballpark deal, say the county should have pushed harder to see the team’s financial records during negotiations. Even one of the team’s staunchest supporters, County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, asked County Mayor Carlos Alvarez to study whether the team could be required to pay more – and the county less – for the ballpark.

Alvarez says the county doesn’t see a need to reopen the ballpark contract – he says county negotiators were aware the team was profitable, which gave them comfort the team could meet its debt obligations to the ballpark’s construction costs. And besides, the team wouldn’t allow it. The county, team and city of Miami would have to agree to reopen talks.

But the raw feelings and distrust of the team are palpable.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, were already going to be fighting an uphill battle to convince politicians to support contributing to stadium renovations that could include a partial roof covering over the stands and seats closer to the field. Now how likely are pols going to be to chip in taxpayer dollars?

It remains to be seen what the Dolphins' pitch looks like. The public already knows Dolphins owner Steve Ross paid $1.1 billion for the franchise and stadium and it now knows he plans to privately finance a water park south of the stadium as a way to generate revenue after the Marlins leave for their new ballpark in 2012.

Dolphins officials say the water park plans are unrelated to stadium plans. Dolphins CEO Mike Dee has said Ross cannot foot the bill for stadium renovations himself. He said under NFL rules, the team can’t take on any more debt, which again raises the question of how stadium renovations will be financed.

“We have challenges with the current structure the NFL provides for franchises,” Dee said last month. “We’re maxed out at our debt capacity. We can’t take on any more debt. We have $235 million on our books from the last expansion. We’ve invested another $50 million in the facility in the last 18 months. We have the maximum amount of team debt allowed by the NFL … Our hands are somewhat tied with respect to the stadium and more investment by the team into the stadium.”

Under league rules, NFL teams can borrow up to $150 million.

“To borrow more, the club would need a special waiver approved by the other teams, which generally has only been granted to a team in connection with the construction or renovation of a stadium,” an NFL spokesman said.

Stay tuned…

Categories: Florida Marlins (193), MLB (110), Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Sports Team Owners (49), Sun Life Stadium (24), Super Bowl (53)

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About the author
CRAIG DAVIS In more than 33 years at the Sun Sentinel, Craig Davis has written about a wide variety of sports topics from baseball to yachting, fishing to triathlons, and also worked as a copy editor and page designer. Recently he reported on local sports, including running, swimming, cycling, equestrian and beach volleyball. He enjoys sports as a participant as well as a spectator, is active in the South Florida running scene plays in the curling club at Saveology Iceplex. This blog offers a glimpse at the business side of sports in the interest of enhancing enjoyment of the games and sporting options as a spectator as well as a participant.
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