The Miami Dolphins wanted to have a referendum to raise hotel taxes by 1% in an effort to support almost 200 million dollars in public funded stadium renovations. After several hurdles where successfully jumped, the last remaining hurdle was the state legislature. The Dolphins need both the House and Senate to approve the referendum to take to the public of Miami-Dade county. According to reports from Tallahassee, the stadium referendum is dead. Thus, the state was able to bail out the Miami-Dade public who have been squabbling over the use of public money for some time. The decision on the Dolphins future in Miami and the stadium will not ultimately end with their votes.
The Dolphins were ready to take the bill to the public for a May 14th vote but that will no longer happen. The NFL is scheduled to award the next two Super Bowls at this months owners meeting. The Dolphins were battling with San Francisco for Super Bowl L while the loser would battle Houston for the next Super Bowl. Without the stadium upgrades, the Dolphins have no shot of landing either one of the marquee games.
While the city has been involved in a campaign to give the Dolphins the money by the bed tax initiative, others in the community have staunchly opposed use of public funds for the renovations. Other oppose the referendum for more legal reasons such as the laws of Florida which prohibit what the Dolphins were trying to do. The Dolphins needed to seek legislature approval due to state laws regarding the use of tax increase to fund privately owned businesses and sports arenas. There is a little more to it than that as the law itself is specific enough on this case that the two branches of government would not change the law to accommodate this request. I don’t live in Miami so I won’t pretend to know this law. You can read more about that law from one of our friends, “Bitchin Dave” by going here.
So what happens now? For starters the Dolphins are not likely going to pack up and move. Owner Stephen Ross said that even if the city denied him the money, he would not move the team. He could naturally flip the bill himself and pay the entire 400 million dollars in renovation costs. Something that many think he should have done from the start. He could also simply let it go and walk away or walk away from the team and sell. A new owner or ownership group may not be inclined to the keep the team in Miami.
The Dolphins are one of the only teams in the NFL who still pays certain taxes and their community charity branch is without peer. Still the Dolphins have a stadium built in 1987 and a fan base that is critical of the product on the field and city stung hard by the Miami Marlins stadium debacle of a year ago. Gaining public trust is ongoing problem for Stephen Ross and unless this team starts winning he may not be able to swing opinion in his favor. For now, it’s in Ross’ hands. What he proposes to do is up to him but he has no guarantees or responsibility to the city of Miami or the state of Florida. Ross could very easily front the money for the renovations and completely avoid interest payments to the city and could use his leverage with the city to take back some of what is already given back to the city in an effort to cut his own losses.
CEO Mike Dee has been the trumpeter of the new stadium design for the last two years. While the issue in the state may be dead, the issue itself may not likely have seen it’s last breach of the water. The Dolphins still have about 2 1/2 weeks before the owners meet on May 21st. The final deadline for a Super Bowl to come to Miami.