Dolphins owner Stephen Ross hopes to renovate SunLife Stadium via a project that relies in part on taxpayer dollars. But he lacks the leverage of an express or implied threat of relocation, which has helped plenty of other teams shake taxpayer dollars out of the tree.
Ross says he won’t be using that leverage.
Specifically, Ross told Monday’s Pro Football Talk that he won’t be expressly or implicitly threatening relocation in order to get a public contribution toward the renovation effort.
“Having been brought up in South Florida and loving the Dolphins I would find that very hard to do,” Ross said. “I mean, some times when you’re dealing with adversity and people are giving you a hard time you say, ‘Hey I’m not bound to stay here.’ But really I’m not threatening anybody. The Dolphins belong in South Florida and they are going to stay in South Florida?”
That’s good news for Dolphins fans, but perhaps bad news for the effort to get Dolphins and non-Dolphins fans alike to support the effort to raise local hotel taxes by one percent. Ross obviously believes they should.
“We are the only stadium in the country I think, especially in the NFL, that doesn’t have one penny of public funds and the only stadium that pays full real estate taxes,” Ross explained. “In fact, I think all the rest of them pay no real estate taxes at all, and we’re paying full taxes. So that sets us behind and makes us less competitive in that standpoint.
“I’m prepared to put a lot of money into it,” Ross said of the renovation effort. “But I think everywhere you see a new stadium you see the public supporting it. And that is one thing Miami has not been supported in Miami. They did the Marlins stadium and that’s probably one of the major reasons we’re having problems.”
Ross is referring to the fact that the local MLB team finagled public funds in part with a promise to make and keep the team competitive — and then the Marlins embarked on a major fire sale only one year in the new building. So how can the Dolphins overcome that?
“It’s about jobs, it’s about economic development, and you can see all the great events that would otherwise come to Miami,” Ross said. “The NFL wants the Super Bowl to come to Miami. It’s the warmest weather at that time of the year. You know, with a great stadium they are going to want to come there more and more. The financial impact of that whole community of South Florida with a Super Bowl is enormous. Then you add to that the BCS Bowls and we’re going to be announcing several other types of events, soccer and other types of events this year that we can bring if we had a first-class stadium.”
Meanwhile, Ross is working toward putting a first-class team into his current second-class stadium, via several big-money free agency signings.
“I bought the team because I wanted to win,” Ross said. “I’ve always listened. I don’t go out there and say I want this guy I want that guy. You listen to your football people. They thought this was the time, and they put a great plan together and I’ve encouraged them. I said, ‘Guys let’s make some moves, it’s time to win.’ I think the results you’ve seen. You could see from the interviews, from the free agents that we have kept and signed and the new ones of how they felt about Miami. It’s kind of like a new beginning if you will and it makes it somewhat exciting.”
Excitement is the key to getting people to come to the current stadium and to support the efforts to renovate it. Ultimately, putting a consistent winner on the field is the best way to finagle long-term excitement.