Talking Points: How Likely are the Dolphins to Leave Miami?

Mike Ehrmann

Since the failed stadium bill, there has been a whole flurry of speculation regarding the team’s future in South Florida. But how likely is it to actually happen, and will it happen anytime soon?

For those that ask why Stephen Ross doesn't pay for the Sun Life Stadium improvements out of his own wallet, the answer is that the NFL has a policy that prefers owners not to foot the entire bill. The league wants the communities to share the cost, and it normally gets its way. On this occasion, it didn't.

The fact that Joe Robbie built the current stadium is an exception, rather than the rule. Teams are now less inclined to build their own stadiums. Of course some stadiums are privately funded. The New York Giants and Jets, with help from the NFL, funded New Jersey's Metlife Stadium without help from the public purse. Jerry Jones also paid the majority of the cost for the Cowboys Stadium.

However, of the twenty stadiums that have been built or renovated in the last seventeen years, fifty six percent of the funding was public.

The NFL's G4 financing program towards stadium projects states that public money must be part of the deal. This was not required under the previous program when the Dallas Cowboys and the New York teams built their respective stadiums. Moving forward, more and more stadiums will be publically funded. And with the average construction cost of a stadium now soaring to over $1 billion, public funding will become the norm.

This leaves the Dolphins at a crossroads. They either renovate the stadium now, or they allow the stadium to fall into further disrepair until it becomes totally unsalvageable. When that happens, the Dolphins may have no incentive to stay. When the stadium is not longer an asset to the team, they may look to move to a city where public money will be granted to fund a new stadium.

Having said this, don't give up hope on the Dolphins staying put just yet. There are still a couple of factors working in our favour.

The most important factor is the owner. Stephen Ross attended Miami Beach Senior High, before moving to the University of Florida, and then finally transferring to Michigan Business School to complete his bachelors degree in accounting. Ross is a Dolphins fan. He is not in it for the money. He wants to create a winning football team. As long as Ross stays as owner, the Dolphins will stay in South Florida. But at seventy- three years old, how much longer will he remain as owner?

Then there's the lack of other viable locations that can host an NFL team. Los Angeles has been touted as a possible destination, but why hasn't an NFL team successfully stayed there before? The Oakland Raiders moved to the city in 1982, before crawling back to Oakland in 1994 when they had problems filling the 90,000 seats at the Coliseum. How about London? I seriously doubt the location would work. The distance that it would take for teams to regularly travel to and from London does not make sense. However, when London has hosted NFL games, it has been a sell-out. But if London were to regularly host games, attendances will not be at the same level. The NFL will not be able to compete with soccer and rugby.

So what happens now? A move seems unlikely in the immediate future, but lets just hope the Florida Legislature changes its mind over the next few years, and we receive that public funding.

What do you think? Is a move imminent? Do you feel that the Florida Legislature will eventually cave in? Let's hear your thoughts.

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