Man, just when we were gearing up for a nice ridiculous Miami Dolphins stadium subsidy campaign, the Florida house had to go and ruin everything by failing to vote on a stadium renovation subsidy bill before the end of their session on Friday. This means that the public referendum that voting already started for is now called off, as is (for the moment, anyway) hopes by Orlando City Soccer Club and other Florida sports teams for a chunk of the state stadium boodle,
There’s lots of fingerpointing going on now, as you’d expect — Dolphins owner Stephen Ross accused House Speaker Will Weatherford, who failed to bring the bill to a vote, of “put[ting] politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami-Dade and that is just wrong,” while Weatherford replied that “you’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars and I think the House just never got comfortable there when the session ended” — but the real question is what exactly happens now. Does Ross go ahead with the renovations, or a smaller set of renovations, with his own money?
The Miami Dolphins do not intend to pay for any upgrades to Sun Life Stadium now that the team’s push for a subsidized renovation to the 1987 facility has failed, CEO Mike Dee said Sunday.
“We cannot do this without a private-public partnership,” Dee told Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4. “At this time we have no intention of investing more.”
That’d be a no, then. So what are the Dolphins going to do, other than shaking their fists angrily at Weatherford? (Dee called his vote an “abuse of power” and repeatedly called him “a guy from Pasco County,” and somebody planted a story in Mike Florio’s NBC Sports column saying that “a source” says that “those supporting the proposed upgrades to Sun Life Stadium” believe that Weatherford killed the bill because he was promised monetary support in the next election. So, yeah, they’re pretty mad at Weatherford right now, or at least trying to focus their rage there.) Will the Dolphins, say, threaten to move now?
“The Dolphins are one of the only franchises in the NFL that don’t have a long-term lease with their community,” Dee said. “At some point somebody’s going to buy the franchise from Steve, and clearly the stadium is the first thing they would need to address.”
Well, that’s not exactly a threat per se—
As for whether Ross might sell the team or try moving it elsewhere, he added: “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Now that’s getting closer to a threat. Or at least the kind of statement that the media can interpret as a threat to move, which is just what Ross and Dee need right now.
Realistically, the team isn’t going to move anywhere anytime soon: While the pending announcement of who’ll get the next couple of Super Bowls was a nice opportunity to try to press for renovation money, there was enough legislative support for public subsidies that the Dolphins will invariably be back a year from now to press their case again, just like the Marlins did year after year after year. But in the meantime, it’s worth their while to get the “Will the Dolphins move to L.A.?” rumors started, in the hopes that maybe that will help turn around some of those awful poll numbers that likely would have defeated the referendum next week anyway.
In fact, Ross might have dodged a bullet here, since this way he gets to blame Weatherford for blocking the stadium bill, instead of having to blame the public for voting it down. I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that sources say critics of the deal believe some people imagine that Ross planned it this way all along, but … oh, wait, I just did, didn’t I?