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Monday, March 10, 2014
Stephen Ross to pay for renovations

By James Walker
ESPN.com

MIAMI -- One year after a failed attempt for public funding, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is expected to announce his plans to invest up to $400 million of his own money to renovate Sun Life Stadium, a league source confirmed to ESPN.com Monday.

The Associated Press first reported Ross' intentions.

Ross' goal is to make South Florida a destination again for major sporting events, including the Super Bowl. Ross was not happy last year when the Florida state government in Tallahassee prevented a public vote for outside funding. Therefore, Miami's owner took matters into his own hands.

Ross, who owns the stadium, has decided to pay for the project himself because applications for the 2018 Super Bowl are due in August and he wants to get the process started, the person said. Renovations will include a partial canopy to shade seats that are now exposed, installing new seats and moving others closer to the field, and improving club-level parking.

Until now, Ross was unwilling to foot the entire bill himself, although he said improvements to the 27-year-old multipurpose stadium were badly needed to bring the Super Bowl back to Miami.

The total cost is expected to be $350 million to $400 million, the person familiar with the situation said. Ross is talking with Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez about the plan, the person said.

The NFL declined to comment, and Gimenez's office had no immediate comment.

Last year, the Dolphins said they were heavily in debt and one of the NFL's most-leveraged teams, making upgrades impossible without taxpayer help. Ross sought up to $379 million in county and state tax money for the project, but his proposal was rejected by the Legislature. That removed South Florida from contention for the 50th Super Bowl.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the upgrades would help keep South Florida competitive in Super Bowl bidding.

The region has hosted the game 10 times, most recently in 2010, and league owners love the destination. But the aging multipurpose stadium has made it difficult for South Florida to compete with more modern NFL stadiums.

Joe Robbie built the stadium with his own money for $115 million, and former owner Wayne Huizenga spent $250 million on renovations in 2007. Ross' proposal last year called for adding about 3,600 seats close to the field, along with a partial canopy roof to shield fans from sun and rain.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.