SBD/May 6, 2013/Facilities

Dolphins Say They Won't Invest In Sun Life Stadium After State Denies Public Funding

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Ross said Weatherford's decision to not put the issue before a vote was wrong
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee yesterday said that team Owner Stephen Ross "would not invest any money" into Sun Life Stadium after the Florida legislature rejected a referendum bill to provide taxpayer support for $350M in renovations, according to Jim DeFede of WFOR-CBS. Dee said, “We cannot do this without a private-public partnership. ... At this time we have no intention of investing more.” Dee added that the team has “no plans to try and return to Tallahassee next year to renew their request,” since Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford “will still be the Speaker.” With the stadium “in decay, Dee raised the possibility the Dolphins may be forced to leave.” Dee: “I wouldn’t want to prognosticate what the future holds, but it is clearly bleak.” Dee, when asked if he envisions a scenario in which the Dolphins would leave South Florida, said, “Not under Steve Ross’s ownership. He’s said that over and over again. But he also said that at some point he will sell the team. At some point somebody is going to buy the franchise from Steve and clearly the stadium issue is going to be the first thing that they would need to address.” Dee said of whether Ross is currently looking to sell the team, “I don’t think so today.” Dee “cryptically noted” that the Dolphins are one of the only NFL franchises that “do not have a long-term lease with their community.” That means the team “could pick up and move at anytime” (CBSLOCAL.com, 5/5). In Ft. Lauderdale, Deslatte, Haughney & Garcia noted the bill would have helped the city of Orlando “move forward" with a $110M stadium construction project it hopes to use to land” an MLS franchise. The bill’s failure also “doomed sales-tax subsidy packages" sought by Daytona Int’l Speedway and the Jaguars (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 5/4).

NO LOVE LOST: In Miami, Olorunnipa & Mazzei wrote the Dolphins “suffered an epic loss” on Friday as Florida lawmakers “ended the 60-day legislative session without approving a deal.” With last-minute “amendments and late-game Hail Marys, the Dolphins held out until the final hour.” But a deal “was not to be had, as Weatherford rejected the overtures of several lawmakers who pleaded with him to hear the bill.” The House “instead killed the stadium effort without a vote.” Ross “responded with a harshly worded statement, blasting Weatherford.” Ross in the statement said of Weatherford, “He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami Dade, and that is just wrong.” But Olorunnipa & Mazzei wrote the bill “simply did not have adequate support of power players in the House.” Weatherford said, “We’re talking about a lot of money. We’re talking about a major public policy issue. ... Before we spend $300 or $400 million in tax subsidies, I just think we need to talk about it and evaluate it more." The impact of the “non-deal quickly rippled down the state," as the Miami-Dade referendum vote scheduled for May 14 “was abruptly called off and more than 60,000 ballots cast early and by mail will be thrown out" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/4). Ross in his statement said Weatherford “gave me and many others his word that this legislation would go to the floor of the House for a vote. … It’s hard to understand why he would stop an election already in process and disenfranchise the 40,000 people who have already voted. I can only assume he felt it was in his political interest to do so” (Dolphins). PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Mike Florio wrote, “To his credit, Ross isn’t biting his tongue.” He is “unloading on the man Ross deems directly responsible.” Ross "is right," and the bill is “something the people should have decided” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 5/4).

SUPER BAD: In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin noted San Diego has been “removed from the Super Bowl rotation because it refuses to update Qualcomm Stadium with public funds.” South Florida Super Bowl Bid Committee Chair Rodney Barreto said, “San Diego turned its back on the Super Bowl and hasn’t hosted one since (2003). I only hope the events in Florida today have not sentenced Florida to a similar fate” (PALM BEACH POST, 5/4). In Oakland, Josh Richman wrote the “only competition remaining for the Bay Area's quest to host Super Bowl 50 seemed to evaporate” with the Florida legislature rejecting public funding for Sun Life Stadium renovations. Bay Area Super Bowl Bid Committee spokesperson Nathan Ballard said on Friday it is "too early to break out the bubbly. It ain't over until May 21, when the NFL owners make their decision” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 5/4). In Sacramento, Matthew Barrows wrote the 49ers and the Bay Area” took another step Friday toward securing Super Bowl L” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/4). But CSNBAYAREA.com’s Matt Maiocco wrote there was “no celebration” in the Bay Area. 49ers CEO Jed York on Saturday wrote in a text message, “Nothing changes” (CSNBAYAREA.com, 5/4). Houston Super Bowl Bid Committee Chair Ric Campo said, “This definitely improves our chance to get the Super Bowl." He added, "If Miami isn’t willing to invest capital to make that facility world class, that puts them at a disadvantage. It improves our competitive advantage” (CHRON.com, 5/3).

DOOMED DEAL? In Miami, Greg Cote wrote the Dolphins’ plan “faced a likely defeat in a Miami-Dade referendum vote even if the Legislature had let it get that far.” Ross should "understand that most Dolphins fans think the stadium is fine as is (and it is), and are hugely more concerned about the Dolphins getting in the Super Bowl than they are about the stadium hosting Super Bowls.” Cote wrote the NFL "threatening to withhold future Super Bowls if this renovation didn’t pass sounded a bit like extortion to folks down here, and that didn’t play well” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 5/4). Also in Miami, Marc Caputo wrote Florida House Republicans “won’t support a measure that appears to undermine the honor of their speaker or institution.” Republicans in the “more-moderate Senate, where support was once strong for the Dolphins’ plan, will be less inclined to back a bill that seems to challenge the conservative House and needlessly takes on a rising star of the party.” If Ross “wants another shot, he needs to apologize to Weatherford and the House” (MIAMI HERALD, 5/5). In Orlando, Kathleen Haughney named the Dolphins a “loser” in the Florida legislative session (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/5).

SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND: In West Palm Beach, Emily Roach wrote an economic development measure that “designates sales tax money to keep spring training teams in Florida could provide the spark to bring another two-team baseball stadium to Palm Beach County.” A bill “passed unanimously by the House on Friday" could bring as much as $50M for a two-team facility. A deal for a venue shared by the Astros and Blue Jays "has reached the stage that county and Palm Beach Gardens officials are meeting about the project.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott wanted $5M "designated each year," but the bill earmarks $3.3M. The money “would be awarded through an application process” (PALM BEACH POST, 5/4).
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