In life, there are two certainties: death and taxes. In sports, there are three: winning, losing and begging for public money.
The Panthers want more cash from Broward County. The Dolphins want to be permanently excused from paying property taxes. And David Beckham wants valuable Port Miami land and a state sales-tax subsidy to start a new soccer team. My scorecard on these latest pitches:
Panthers. Talk about sad. Over the past decade, our hockey team has made more appearances before the County Commission seeking handouts than in the playoffs. Now the Panthers want a package worth $80 million, including an extra $4 million a year from hotel taxes to cover their share of arena construction repayments. Currently, the county pays $8 million a year toward the Sunrise arena, the team $4 million. The county owns the building, but the team gets nearly all the arena's profits, including those generated by concerts and non-hockey events.
The team's rationale for seeking new terms: Hotel tax collections have soared beyond projections (to some $17 million a year), so the county could afford to part with the cash. My thinking: That tax money, which can only be used for tourism-related things, would be much better spent on beach renourishment. After all, our beaches are a much bigger tourist draw than the Panthers.
The Panthers' request has gotten resistance from hoteliers and others, and it's unclear what the abrupt departure of longtime team president Michael Yormark will mean. Yormark had cozy relations with commissioners. New team owners Vincent Viola and Doug Cifu are hoping for the same. But the team has alienated many fans (and voters) with chronic losing and ventures like Club Red, luxury seating that displaced loyal season-ticket holders.
Dolphins. Owner Stephen Ross now says the team will pay for stadium renovations, but he wants to stop paying property tax, currently $4 million a year. Unlike venues built with public dollars for the Marlins, Heat and Panthers, privately owned SunLife Stadium isn't exempt from property tax. Team founder Joe Robbie knew that when he built it, as Ross did when he bought the team and stadium. It might not be fair, but would it be fair to excuse the Dolphins but not other businesses or private residents who must pay? Would it be fair to the city of Miami Gardens or Miami-Dade schools, whose share of the Dolphins tax bill is roughly $1 million each and who'd have to deal with the shortfall? All for the benefit of a billionaire owner and the wildly profitable NFL?
Beckham. Can an international soccer superstar charm his way to a new stadium and a Major League Soccer franchise? David Beckham is trying, but I'm puzzled by this whole effort. Our region is soccer mad, but the passion usually involves teams from South America or Europe. When was the last time you heard somebody say, "Gee, I really wish South Florida had an MLS team?" Didn't we already have the Fusion? Beckham says the stadium would be built with private money. Is this really about soccer, or about Beckham's backers trying to get valuable land for condos, offices and retail development?