|By Douglas Hanks, The Miami
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 14, 2013--Miami-Dade's top hotel group endorsed raising hotel taxes to help fund a roughly $400 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium, provided some of the new revenue goes to a tourism advertising campaign for the county.
The vote by the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association gives the Miami Dolphins a key endorsement as the team prepares for a referendum needed to enact the financing plan.
As a group that lobbies for the hotel industry, the hotel association represents businesses that would see their customers pay slightly higher taxes if the Dolphins get the plan approved.
The Dolphins' plan would increase taxes on mainland hotels to 7 percent from 6 percent, but leave hotel taxes unchanged in Miami Beach, Bal Harbour and Surfside.
A higher hotel tax would generate about $10 million a year now, and the Dolphins have not said publicly how much of that money the team wants for an upgrade that would include new VIP seating and a partial roof. When the plan was unveiled in January, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said the team might request only a portion of the revenue generated by the higher tax each year.
The trade group's resolution cites the value of an upgraded Sun Life continuing to host Super Bowls and college football championships, along with other major sporting and entertainment events.
"It's imperative that the stadium's amenities remain competitive,'' the association's chairman, Raj Singh, said in a statement. Raj is general manager of the Sea View Hotel in Bal Harbour.
The resolution approved by the board says some of the revenue created by the new tax should be spent promoting and advertising tourism in Miami-Dade. The language of the bill the Dolphins are pushing through Tallahassee allows Miami-Dade to use some of the new money for tourism promotion, but does not require it.
"It's also important to note that our membership wants to ensure that a portion of the additional tax collected be used for tourism-related marketing and promotion because we believe this will be a win-win for all of us,'' Singh said.
Though headquartered in Miami Beach, the association has hoteliers from across Miami-Dade on its board.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has yet to announce an agreement with the Dolphins to send a financing plan to the County Commission and then the voters before a May 22 gathering of NFL owners to pick between South Florida and San Francisco for Super Bowl 2016.
Reserving some of the money for tourism efforts has not come up before as lawmakers in Miami-Dade and Tallahassee debated the Dolphins plan. Part of a county ordinance authorizing the higher hotel levy could be earmarking some of the new tax dollars for tourism efforts, such as increasing the budget of the county's tourism bureau or by increasing grants to events that attract visitors.
Some of Miami-Dade's largest hotels, including Miami Beach's Fontainebleau, have already endorsed the stadium plan. The hotel association endorsement, released late Wednesday, came the same day Miami Beach commissioners passed a resolution opposing the plan.
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