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Source: Dolphins OK referendum for stadium upgrade

Photo: A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Upgrades to the Dolphins' stadium is expected to cost about $400 million, with the team paying for about half.

MIAMI (AP) -- The Miami Dolphins have agreed to a local referendum on their plan seeking tax money for an upgrade of their stadium, a person familiar with the discussions said Sunday.

The Dolphins believe passage by Miami-Dade County voters would help the chance of the plan's approval by the Florida Legislature, the person told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team declined to comment.

A news conference announcing the vote is expected to be held as early as Monday.

Team owner Stephen Ross earlier resisted holding a referendum on the issue, saying there wasn't time for a vote before legislators would need to act.

The change of heart comes after local legislators left the stadium bill off their list of priorities for this year's session, hurting the team's chances of winning approval in Tallahassee.

The referendum will come with many South Floridians upset about the Miami Marlins' 1-year-old ballpark, which was built largely with public money. Upgrades to the Dolphins' stadium are expected to cost about $400 million, and Ross has agreed pay at least $201 million.

The Dolphins say upgrades are needed to keep the stadium attractive for major events like Super Bowls - such as the 50th title game in two years, which Miami hopes to host - and college football's championship game. They say the deal would keep them in South Florida through at least 2034.

The plan includes adding about 3,600 new seats close to the field, improved amenities and a canopy roof that would shield fans from South Florida's sun and rain while preserving a grass playing surface.

Public money would come from a $3 million state subsidy and an increase in Miami-Dade County's tax on hotels. The Miami Hurricanes play their home football games in the 25-year-old stadium and support the plan.

The Dolphins hope to hold the vote before May 22, when NFL owners are expected to choose the host for the 2016 Super Bowl. Miami and San Francisco are the finalists.

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