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Sun Life Vote May Leave No Time For A Plan B

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins have relented on their pitch for renovations to Sun Life Stadium and will send the issue to the voters to decide whether any public money will be used. But ahead of a planned Monday press conference, time will be short to get the issue on a ballot.

According to county officials, it will cost roughly $3-$5 million to get the issue to a vote. The money will be taken from the general fund, but even after it's approved, it will take an additional 60 to 90 days to get a special election together.

Assuming an announcement for a referendum is made February 11, if it takes 60 days to put together the election; the election would likely be held at some point from mid-April to mid-May.

That time frame will put the Dolphins stadium vote perilously close to the date NFL owners are set to decide on what city will host Super Bowl L (50). The vote on Super Bowl L will be between Santa Clara, California and South Florida.

Santa Clara is currently building a brand new, roughly $1 billion stadium for the San Francisco 49ers to move into. The stadium, and the entire Bay area, is the focus of the bid from the Santa Clara.

Miami's bid hinges on the improvements to Sun Life, which has been priced at roughly $400 million. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has pledged to pay for half of the upgrades and wants public money to pay for the other half.

"I think the voters will go for it," said head of the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee, Rodney Barreto.

As recently as a few weeks ago, Dolphins chief executive officer Mike Dee said the team was opposed to putting the issue before the voters. Part of the reason behind the Dolphins' reluctance to put the issue before voters likely stems from the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins were able to pull together a boondoggle of a deal that put Miami and Miami-Dade taxpayers on the hook for a roughly $2 billion in total funding to build Marlins Park. That issue was never put before taxpayers, many of which opposed the deal at the time.

"The public is frustrated with what happened with the Marlins," said Commissioner Rebecca Sosa.

After initially spending on the roster last season, the Marlins have since blown up the team's roster and will likely not field a competitive team in 2013. The team is also expecting poor attendance in 2013, which the team has blamed in the past for roster trimming.

The Sun Life renovation plan is also complicated by the Republican-led Florida legislature where an increase in any taxes is seen as anathema. The Sun Life renovation plan seeks to increase taxes on tourists and is looking for a sales tax exemption from the state legislature.

The Dolphins have pushed the fact that no local taxes will be increased to pay for the stadium's renovation. However, opponents like Norman Braman, who led the charge against Marlins Park, have not bought into the Dolphins plan and are opposing it as well.

For Sun Life Stadium, if the renovations are not approved or if they fail on a vote and Stephen Ross doesn't agree to shoulder all of the cost; the Super Bowl is not likely to come back to South Florida anytime soon.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said as much the last time the Super Bowl was in the area. The NFL was still smarting after the 2007 game saw a deluge of rain. Goodell stressed the need for a roof and overall improvements to Sun Life after the monsoon game.

Still, last week Goodell said the Super Bowl would return to New Orleans, despite the blackout game at the Superdome. Plus, next year's Super Bowl is scheduled to be held outdoors in New Jersey, which could put it at risk of having heavy snow in the area by the time the game rolls around.

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