According to the Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, the Dolphins have cancelled their plans to renovate Sun Life Stadium after the team's attempt to receive public financing was blocked in the Florida House of Representatives. This raises two troubling questions for the Dolphins and the City of Miami: Will one of the NFL's most storied franchises relocate and have we seen the last Super Bowl in South Beach?
Dee pulled no punches on Monday. "We cannot do this without a private-public partnership," noted Dee to local CBS affiliate WFOV-TV. It was rumored that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was prepared to cover 70% of the estimated $400 million in stadium renovations, but without any public funding, the team is taking a hardline stance. "At this time we have no intention of investing more," concluded Dee on Monday.
It's clear the decision from the Florida House was payback from the disastrous deal struck just six years ago to build the Miami Marlins a brand new state-of-the-art stadium. The negotiations between the Marlins, Miami-Dade County, and the City of Miami were hotly contested. Pressure was applied by Major League Baseball and the Marlins, who threatened that if a new stadium wasn't delivered, the team would relocate. In the end, the private-public partnership greatly benefited the Marlins. The team only paid for $125 million of the $634 million price tag (19.7%). The Marlins front office rewarded the public's investment by dumping salary, sending their best players to other teams via trade. The fire sale has resulted in the Marlins fielding one of the worst teams in professional sports, while drawing the fourth fewest fans in baseball. The lack of fans has hurt local businesses, namely hotels, restaurants, and bars.
The taxpayers of Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami were fleeced for approximately $508.8 million and have very little to show for it today. This underwhelming return on investment has shifted the political winds regarding stadium funding and rendered the Dolphins bid dead on arrival. The Marlins debacle was regrettable, but to deny the Dolphins' request of approximately $120 million is a foolish decision.
The NFL generally awards Super Bowl bids to warm weather cities with elite facilities. New York proved recently that you can secure a bid without the promise of pleasant weather, but the chances of Miami receiving a bid in the future looks rather unlikely in their current facility. San Francisco will likely be named the site for Super Bowl L, thanks to the 49ers' new stadium set to open in Santa Clara in 2014. Studies conducted by both the NFL and competing cities estimate that putting on the Big Game can lead to a massive pay day, to the tune of $300+ million for the hosting city. Miami has hosted ten Super Bowls over the past 47 years, which ties them for most games with New Orleans, but without a new stadium or massive renovations they may have seen their last.
The only tool left in the Fins' bag is to seriously consider moving to Los Angeles, a ploy used by Major League Baseball President and COO Bob DuPuy during the Marlins financing battle. If the city faces a legitimate threat of losing the Dolphins, the Florida House may reconsider the proposal. That being said, the 2016 Super Bowl has already slipped through their fingers. The true losers in this battle are the business owners of the city of Miami. Just another example of politicians compounding one mistake with another.