Dolphins have new stadium reno plan — oh wait, no they actually don’t

Hey, so what’s going on with those Miami Dolphins stadium renovations that the Florida legislature declined to fund last spring, aside from team owner Stephen Ross trying to punish those who voted against him by running attack ads? Hello, Miami Herald headline!

Dolphins “working hard” on new approach for stadium redo

Ooh, there’s a new plan? What does it look like?

“We are having a lot of discussions about the best ways to get to that,” he told the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce during a panel discussion on the local sports industry. Afterward, Garfinkel told reporters: “We are working hard on trying to put together a timeline and a plan on how we can get this accomplished.”

He offered no specifics, and made his initial remarks in response to a question from the panel’s moderator, Jeff Bartel.

The Herald referred to this as “talk of a new stadium push.” I’d call it “licking your wounds and putting on a brave face when forced to answer a moderator’s question.” Potato, potahto, right?

Dolphins owner avenges vote against stadium by trying to buy new legislators

And it’s on:

Stephen Ross, the Miami Dolphins owner who vowed to avenge his political loss in Tallahassee earlier this year, is recruiting candidates to run against two lawmakers who opposed using public dollars to partly fund a $350 million renovation to Sun Life Stadium, the Miami Herald has learned.

Ross’ political group, Florida Jobs First, is reaching out to potential candidates to pose primary challenges to GOP state Reps. Michael Bileca and Carlos Trujillo. They were perhaps the most strident opponents to the football club’s proposal, which died when the Florida House failed to take a floor vote on Dolphins-backed legislation.

The Miami Herald also notes that Florida house speaker Will Weatherford, who was instrumental in blocking the Dolphins deal and who Ross for some reason has steered clear of so far, yesterday appointed Trujillo to head the house’s economic development and tourism subcommittee. Since state elections aren’t until the end of next year, this “ensures that if the Dolphins intended pursue their legislative agenda again in Tallahassee in 2014, those efforts will go nowhere,” writes the Herald. But at least Ross will have something to keep him busy now.

Miami scheduled to be underwater within decades — anyway, how are those arena upgrades coming?

Here’s one reason we didn’t consider for why it might not be a great idea for Miami to give the Heat lots of money for renovations to AmericaAirlines Arena or the Dolphins money for upgrades to Sun Life Stadium: The arena and the stadium, and indeed Miami itself, may not be habitable for long enough for it to matter.

The unavoidable truth is that sea levels are rising and Miami is on its way to becoming an American Atlantis. It may be another century before the city is completely underwater (though some more-pessimistic­ scientists predict it could be much sooner), but life in the vibrant metropolis of 5.5 million people will begin to dissolve much quicker, most likely within a few decades. The rising waters will destroy Miami slowly, by seeping into wiring, roads, building foundations and drinking-water supplies – and quickly, by increasing the destructive power of hurricanes. “Miami, as we know it today, is doomed,” says Harold Wanless, the chairman of the department of geological sciences at the University of Miami. “It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”

The article by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone is somewhat speculative, as it has to be given that not only don’t we know the exact amount of sea level rise that coming decades will bring, but we don’t know precisely when south Florida may be hit by the kind of massive hurricane and storm surge that would lead to the sort of chaos that Goodell predicts (raw sewage dumped into Biscayne Bay, salt water corroding wiring and leaving much of the city dark for months, drinking water wells ruined). But it’s a good reminder that while stadiums, and their debts, are expected to last 20 to 30 years, there’s no guarantee that we’ll still be living in the same world three decades from now. In fact, politicians in, for example, Sacramento and Glendale might want to be catching up on their climate-related reading as well — just in case it turns out to be useful.

Dolphins owner avenges stadium bill defeat by targeting “no” voters with attack ads

What do you do when you’re a billionaire and some state legislators voted against giving you hundreds of millions of dollars in tax money to make you even richer? If you’re Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, you form a Super PAC and take out ads against the guys who voted against you, accusing them of killing jobs and featuring a sad construction worker to drive the point home:

Nothing yet from the heavily GOP-funding Ross against Republican House Speaker Wlll Weatherford, who took the lead in killing the Dolphins bill, but a source tells Politico that Ross’ Super PAC Florida Jobs First will “take on incumbents in all parts of the Sunshine State,” so just wait for it.

Dolphins probably would have lost stadium referendum anyway

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross might not want to point too many fingers at Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford for killing his stadium renovation subsidy referendum, now that it looks like the referendum was likely to go down to massive defeat anyway:

A majority of Miami-Dade voters who cast ballots in the special stadium election before it was called off opposed the $350 million makeover, according to a count the elections department released late Tuesday.

The tabulation showed that among the 60,678 voters who voted by mail or at early-voting sites, 34,780 — about 57 percent — opposed the Dolphins’ proposal, compared to 25,898 — or 43 percent — who favored it.

Early voting doesn’t always match up precisely with later voting, and Ross still would have had a week and change to gear up a major ad campaign to press for “yes” votes. But it’s another sign that this spring’s whole campaign was a tremendously uphill battle, and way more likely to be the opening salvo in a years-long stadium war than something that anyone, Ross included, seriously thought would succeed on the first try. Remember, the thing about stadium campaigns is that team owners can lose as many times as necessary, so long as they eventually win once.

Dolphins CEO: If stadiums start raining from the sky, sure we’ll take one

How rumors get started:

At a brief meeting with reporters, [Miami Dolphins CEO] Dee was asked directly if the team would consider relocating to Palm Beach County, if a stadium was built for them there.

“We’re open minded to all long-term solutions,” Dee responded.

So, some reporter (I’m guessing from a Palm Beach news outlet) decided to ask Dee if the Dolphins would move to a new stadium there, and Dee, being no dummy, didn’t rule it out. No big news there.

The resulting Miami Herald headline:

Miami Dolphins ‘open-minded’ to stadium in Palm Beach

Number of people seriously proposing building the Dolphins a stadium in Palm Beach: zero. (Okay, one, counting whoever asked Dee that question.) Amount of money it would cost to build a new stadium in Palm Beach: somewhere around a billion dollars. Amount that the Dolphins would be willing to put in toward that amount: not a whole heckuva lot, given Dee’s past statements on the matter, and that the Dolphins would still be stuck with $232 million in remaining debt on Sun Life Stadium even if they moved. Budget shortfall on this imaginary stadium: somewhere around a billion dollars.

We can only hope that this was actually the start of a subtle ruse on the part of the unnamed questioner, and that future questions will become progressively more implausible: “If someone offered you a stadium in Tallahassee, would you move there?” “In Guantanamo Bay?” “In Mare Tranquillitatis?” Whoever can guess the point at which Mike Dee stops responding, “You can’t close the door on anything,” wins two tickets to … no, not a Dolphins game. Something good.

Florida house kills Dolphins subsidy, CEO says “Screw renovations if we have to pay for them”

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?

Dolphins tout stadium vote with “opportunity fair” for nonexistent jobs

Only two weeks to go before a public vote on your stadium renovation plan that everybody hates? Here’s a creative way to get people thinking of it as a jobs package instead of a $127 million stadium subsidy: Invite people to apply for jobs at the stadium that don’t exist yet!

As the team touts a proposed $350 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium as a job creator worthy of tax dollars, the Dolphins will open up Sun Life Stadium on Thursday to aspiring construction workers, laborers and others who would want to work on the project…

Rick Beasley, head of the South Florida Workforce employment agency … praised the Dolphins for getting a head start in lining up local workers for what would be one of the largest construction profits underway in Miami-Dade.

“Some people can be skeptical and say this is just a ploy to get people out to vote,” he said. “For me, I want to make sure we have people in the system ready” to take a job.

Transparent vote ploy or sop to desperate unemployed Florida construction workers? Why can’t it be both?

Florida senate approves subsidy money for Dolphins, Orlando MLS, anybody else who asks nicely

Okay, so remember way back yesterday, when the Miami Dolphins stadium bill was stalled in both the state house and senate with only four days to go, and it looked like the clock might run out? Forget all that, because NFL commissioner Roger Goodell flew into town yesterday and sprinkled his magic pixie dust around (read: held out the carrot of the Super Bowl, and likely also the threat of a relocation to that imaginary stadium in Los Angeles), and the state senate responded by voting 35-4 to okay $13 million a year in new tax subsidies to pro sports teams in Florida.

That’s sports teams in general — the senate bill sets up a $13 million a year pool of funds, then allows any teams (with the exception of the NBA, but the Heat have already gotten two new arenas in the last 25 years, which presumably will hold them for a while) to apply for funds from it. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity would make recommendations, and the the legislature would vote again on who gets the money. In addition to $3 million a year for the Dolphins, the prospective owners of a prospective Orlando MLS expansion team would be expected to ask for $2 million a year, and then you’ve got your spring training sites, and so on.

The house still needs to pass the bill, but speaker Will Weatherford indicated yesterday that he’s happy with it, and with the overwhelming passage in the senate, it looks way more likely than it did yesterday that the whole mess (the Dolphins part of it, anyway) is going to be headed to Miami-Dade voters to decide. Voting, and robocalls to influence the voting, started yesterday; given the most recent polling, you’d think the stadium subsidy would be looking at long odds, but if the 100-to-1 rule holds, it’s going to be more about the ad campaigns than public distaste for throwing good money after bad.

Dolphins stadium bill stalls, but voters start casting ballots anyway

It’s never over till it’s over in stadium campaigns — cf. last year’s Minnesota Vikings stadium scramble — but with one week left to go in the Florida legislative session, things are not looking good for the Miami Dolphins renovation bill. Miami-Dade state representatives are trying to stall the bill in the house, and have succeeded in getting that body not to move until the state senate does first (the Miami CBS affiliate called the house bill “essentially dead”); and the senate postponed debate on the stadium bill again on Friday, with the chief sponsor left to insist, “No, we’re not panicking yet.”

Dolphins CEO Mike Dee appeared to be panicking just a little, though, leading a stadium tour for reporters just so he could point out how OH MY GOD IT’S 26 YEARS OLD:

Dee led reporters and camera crew through a tour of the stadium Friday to show where the renovation dollars would go. And in pointing out the aging state of the stadium, he made the point that fans shouldn’t count on Sun Life being acceptable to a future Dolphins owner once Ross’ tenure ends.

“Somebody is going to walk in here and say, ‘This place can’t be preserved,’ ’’ Dee said. “It is better dead than alive.”

Or in layman’s terms: My guy doesn’t want to see anything happen to your precious football team, but if some other guy comes in here, hoo boy, you don’t want to see what’ll happen then.

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade residents get to start voting on the stadium plan today, even though the whole election might get called off by Friday if there’s no bill passed by the legislature. Though at least getting to vote on measures that don’t count would be a welcome change from the usual state of affairs in Florida.