There is a wide misconception that has grown through the years here in South Florida. It has been the gold standard to every stadium project when it’s time to discuss financing and acquisition. Those familiar with sports here in the Magic City know that I am already talking about Joe Robbie Stadium, now known as Hard Rock Stadium. South Florida idolizes Robbie for building it with his own money, however, lost in the story is the land acquisition deal.
Why are we writing about a stadium built in 1987 and a land deal from 1984 in 2018? Well, there has been much public outcry over David Beckham and Jorge Mas’ attempt to lease land from the City of Miami for Miami Freedom Park. As Matthew Bunch eloquently wrote, the park will have several uses to include a tech hub, recreational soccer fields, green space, and of course the MLS Miami stadium. Yet, time and time again we hear that they should purchase the land themselves.
Prominent Miami figures have been vocal in their arguments against the redevelopment of the current Melreese golf course. Former Miami Heat Guard Ray Allen has put out on social media pleas to keep the golf course intact due to its community out reach program (The First Tee). Local Filmmaker Billy Corben has rallied against the project and detailing his skepticism of city officials to negotiate a good deal out of the land. Alfred Spellman has gone out and laid a similar position to his long time friend and business partner. Scrolling through twitter today I saw a post from Spellman that stated “Joe Robbie went out and bought a parcel of land and built his own stadium. Jorge Mas and David Beckham should do the same.”
I began to wonder, just how much did Joe Robbie pay for the parcel of land that has become Hard Rock Stadium. A quick search in the Miami-Dade County Property Appraisers website, showed something interesting. Joe Robbie never actually bought the land where his stadium sits today. Joe Robbie acquired a 99-year lease from the county at $1 per year, subject to a stadium being built on the property by 1990. So where did the story change?
It’s essentially a long game of telephone and trying to hold everyone to the gold standard. Yes, Robbie built the stadium with his own money using crafty financing ideas in order to receive the funds needed to complete the $115 million (1987) project. Off the heels of the horrendous Miami Marlins deal, the fiasco has always had constituents point to Hard Rock Stadium as being put together the “right” way. No public financing and no public funds. Yet, everyone seems to forget that little land deal. Recent tax records show that the Dolphins have paid from $2.2 Million to $4.2 Million in the last four years.
It all ties in together with what the MLS Miami group is requesting. A long-term lease on a piece of land that is currently being used in a manner that doesn’t create much revenue to the city. We can argue at length about whether a golf course is green space and whether green spaces should be developed. If the city negotiates a deal with the ownership group that brings in a substantial lease payment for the property and forces the group to pay property taxes, then it’s an automatically a win in comparison to the other stadium projects.