Wednesday’s annual Competition Committee conference call included a curve-ball question regarding something unrelated to potential rule changes. A reporter asked if the proposal by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to fund renovations to the stadium he owns will be discussed at next week’s league meetings in Orlando.
“The Dolphins stadium renovations are not on the agenda,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in response. “Whether Steve Ross decides to report on it briefly for the ownership would be up to him.”
Regardless of whether Ross brings it up, it’s safe to say owners will find a way to talk about it, even if among themselves. By offering in virtual unconditional fashion to pay for stadium renovations out of his own pocket only a year after a failed effort to finagle a significant partial public contribution, Ross could make it harder for other owners who want public money to get public money.
Regardless of the motivation for offering to fund the upgrades in exchange for a reduction in the $5 million in annual property taxes paid for the stadium and surrounding parking lots, those who oppose the concept of taxpayer funding for stadium construction will be able to characterize the decision as a sea change, empowering other communities to resist the efforts of billionaires to dip into the public coffers for the construction or improvement of their playgrounds.
While it’s arguably an apples-and-oranges proposition given that Ross had no desire to move the team or sell it to someone who would, his decision to pay for the upgrades, if he gets a relatively low-cost tax break, will complicate future efforts by other owners to shake public cash from the taxpayer tree. And it will force those owners who would be inclined to move or to sell to be far less subtle, in order to get the point across.
Given the precise degree of stubbornness of the individuals involved, it all could set the stage for a calling of bluffs that culminates in a place like L.A. or London or Portland getting the franchise it covets, nearly 20 years since the last relocation of an NFL franchise.